Sr Barbara Kenny shares her thoughts on World Day of Migrants and Refugees in this reflection called TOWARDS AN EVER GREATER ‘WE’. “As I contemplate on what to write in this reflection the tragedy of what is happening in Afghanistan is on my mind.
For weeks we have witnessed the fear of the Afghan people and the desperation of many to leave the country rather than live under a regime that is oppressive, and dangerous, for many”. The poem by Lori McBride ‘A Broken Family Tree’ speaks to the painful experiences of many people but when I read it it conjures up images of Kabul airport and the thousands of families and individuals seeking to get aboard a plane for another country. While they get away they leave behind the rest of their family and the cultural ties that bind them.
The very title of the poem, ‘A Broken Family Tree’ is enough to grab me and hold me in that experience of familial and cultural fragmentation. To quote:
“….And I see the broken branches I knew
Scattered about me in pain.
There are those who have taken an axe
To the root of our very foundation
And who have passed this destruction
Down to every new generation.
If I could take that axe,
I would toss it deep into the sea,
Never to return again
To harm the generations that follow me.
I am one of many,
But alone I will go
And plant the new seeds
Where a beautiful tree will grow.”
The days, months and years ahead will be difficult for our Afghan friends as they settle into a different culture but also as they worry about loved ones left behind in Afghanistan. Our prayer is that A new beautiful tree will be allowed to grow, that there will be a warm welcome for those who come to these shores seeking refuge.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has written a message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees which was celebrated on 27 September. It’s entitled: TOWARDS AN EVER GREATER ‘WE’.
It’s natural to our species to gravitate towards those with whom we have a shared understanding and experience. We feel safe and comfortable and encouraged in our point of view and lifestyle. However groupings can be and often are, divisive. Sometimes the differences between people seem too great, or history has been kind to some at the expense of others, or prejudices are passed down generations, or someone has a negative experience from a person in another group/community. There are so many reasons why we shun people from other communities, deep seated fears and perceptions that we don’t even know we have can be the reason we feel uncomfortable with others who are different. There is no doubt that much fragmentation exists in our world.
In his message Pope Francis invites us to reflect on being inclusive to everyone and on working to broaden and deepen our understanding of inclusivity until we become a “we”, meant to embrace the entire human family without exception. Pope Francis is not saying that we abandon who we are, our race, creed, but rather that we “build community in diversity”, without “depersonalised uniformity” and that we do so from the midst of our own community.
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is our difference. If we can engage with each other Pope Francis says that “Our societies will have a “colourful” future, enriched by diversity and by cultural exchanges.” …. “If we so desire we can transform borders into places of encounter where the miracle of an ever wider “we” can come about.”
What a vision! Borders as places of encounter, borders as thresholds even. This radical response is not new. It finds its root in the teaching of Jesus where, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, he deliberately depicts the ‘other’, the despised Samaritan, as the outstanding human being. Reminding us that compassion, generosity and caring are universal in a world where we often fear and distrust the stranger.