Dedicated senior teacher remembered
September 22, 2020
An opportunity for growth
September 22, 2020

Meet the migrant in our midst

Q: Archbishop J, how can the domestic Church support migrants and refugees?

Forced like Jesus Christ to flee. This is the theme of the 106th World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which we celebrate this Sunday.

By positioning the migrant and refugee in the light of Jesus the refugee, the Holy Father is making a compelling connection between Jesus and the migrant we see every day.

The theme itself is a catechesis. This migrant, this refugee has been forced, like Jesus, to flee his or her home and head to our shores.

No-one leaves his home without good reason. Think about the many Caribbean people who left for Australia, England the US, and Canada. They left in the hope of a better life for themselves and their family. For them it was not a matter of life or death; it was not fleeing persecution or because their lives were in danger.

We all have family abroad and we are troubled when they have a challenge with their visa or their arrangement to stay in a foreign land. We rejoice when they succeed and do well and make us proud by their accomplishments.

We felt anger and indignation in 2018 when the British parliament wrongly detained and denied the legal rights of many of our Caribbean people in England. In 83 cases, the Home Office actually wrongfully deported them. We felt their pain and we suffered with them.

What about the pain and suffering of those who today leave their home because there is insufficient medication, food, health care, jobs, economic or political stability?

For over 30 years, Trinidad and Tobago has welcomed refugees and migrants onto our shores. They came from all over the world and each one had a very interesting story.

There were two Russians who were stranded here in the late 1980s. There was also Mustafa, a conscientious Muslim from the Middle East who lived in our community for many years. He is now settled in New Zealand. There are countless others whom I met and interacted with over these long years.

The fact that the Church celebrates the 106th World Day for Migrants and Refugees should jolt us. This means that for over a century the Church has seen it important to highlight the cause of the refugee and migrant in our midst.

That refugee or migrant could have been me or you. One thing we do know is that man or woman was “forced like Jesus Christ to flee”. Pope Francis reminds us that every migrant or refugee is an image of Jesus Himself.


A call to the domestic Church

Welcome, protect, promote, and integrate are the four verbs that Pope Francis gave us in his Message for World Day for Migrants and Refugees in 2018. These are four very powerful verbs that stir us to action, to discipleship and to becoming our brother and sister’s keeper.

These four verbs are at the heart of all ministry to migrants and refugees. This is the call of the Holy Father, to us his faithful flock.

In this year’s message the Holy Father has—in addition—introduced six pairs of verbs to challenge us to go even deeper in our response to Christ.

It is in and through these six pairs of verbs that the domestic Church finds its response to this human crisis that the Church has highlighted for 106 years. With the worsening of the effects of climate change and the forced migration of many people, our generation will be forced to face and show compassion in ever greater ways to the migrant and the refugee.

“You have to know in order to understand.” There is a saying from native America, “Never judge another until you walk a mile in his moccasins”. It is easy to point fingers and blame people.

Getting to know a migrant or refugee family is the first step of educating ourselves on their plight, the first step to recognising the face of Jesus in them. Is there a migrant or refugee family with children, or grandchildren the same ages as yours? That’s even better. Find a way through your parish to meet a family—just one—and begin to know and understand their plight.

“It is necessary to be close in order to serve.” As you get to know the family up close you will see how to serve. You will also see the way that Jesus, recognised in them, serves you and your family. When children see true poverty and need, entitlement and greed are challenged, sobriety emerges. As you come up close with the family see how you could serve. See how Jesus serves you through them.

“In order to be reconciled, we need to listen.” We often imagine we know another’s plight. Listen to the family, listen deeply to their story and their pain. Begin to understand why they left to come to our country. As you listen, see the prejudice drop. They are like us in so many ways.

“In order to grow, it is necessary to share.” Extra toys, or clothes, food, or necessary items? Begin to share what you have with them. Share your time, talent, and treasure. This is how the domestic Church grows in faith, hope and love.

“We need to be involved in order to promote.” As Christians we are called not only to protect, but also to promote—to become an advocate for their cause, challenging prejudice, and xenophobia. As your family becomes more deeply involved there will be opportunities to promote the cause of Jesus, the migrant and refugee.

“It is necessary to cooperate in order to build.” By working together, we will build a better future for our family, our Church, and the nation. I really urge you to take this step, in faith. Begin by getting to know one family.

I want to applaud all the many priests, religious and laity who have already taken these steps to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate the migrant and refugee into our communities. Many of our parishes and parishioners continue to do outstanding and heroic work amongst our migrants.

Key Message:

Jesus is the migrant and refugee that you gaze upon; treat Him with utmost respect.

Action Step:

As a family, get to know one migrant or refugee family. Follow the six verbs of Pope Francis. Join your parish ministry for migrants and refugees.

Scripture Reading:

Matthew 2:13–14


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