Millions of people have been displaced due to war or forced to migrate due to conditions brought on by our changing climate, economic or political instability, and threats of violence – leaving them vulnerable to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Pope Francis calls us to welcome, protect, and respect all who are forced to flee their home. Let us take time this month to consider ways we can be more welcoming and supportive of the displaced and vulnerable, while also encouraging actions to address the systemic injustices that lead to these situations.
Call to Prayer
God of compassion and Spirit of hope, open our hearts to the suffering of the world. Not for us to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen. (Inspired by Laudato Si’ #19)
The war in the Ukraine and other conflicts have pushed the number of people forced to flee their homes over the 100-million-person milestone for the first time in recorded history. (UNHCR) Every day, thousands of people are forced to leave home, sometimes putting their lives in the hands of smugglers in search of a better life. At 17 years old, Mary did just that. She felt there was no future for her in her home of Benin City, Nigeria, so she sought opportunities elsewhere. She was put into contact with a man, Ben, who promised to pay her way to Italy and use his connections to find her a restaurant job. Instead, her vulnerability was taken advantage of, and Mary was forced into sex trafficking.
After enduring a week of bomb blasts and shelling, Victoria fled Ukraine with her children, two friends, and one bag. She left her husband and everything else behind. At the border with thousands of other refugees, she waited over 12 hours in the freezing cold before crossing into Poland. “How does anyone feel being forced out of their country, being made to leave loved ones behind? Or being exhausted waking up to sirens, taking our children to the shelter at night? Who will welcome us in this strange land?”
Monse and her two children have been living under tarps on the streets of Juarez, Mexico for two months. She and her family are seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape the violence that threatens their safety back home. They are among thousands from throughout Central America fleeing violence and extreme poverty. But U.S. regulations are making them wait in Mexico until their case is considered. Thus, they live on the street – vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. In addition to caring for her own two children, this energetic 23-year-old, clipboard in hand, also looks after the dozens of others who share her street space. How bad must things have been back home for Monse and the others to embark on this journey of hardship and uncertainty? What faith she must have.
“We wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” (2 Pet 3:13). Righteousness is one of the building blocks of God’s Kingdom. In our daily efforts to do the Lord’s will, justice needs to be built up with patience, sacrifice, and determination, so that all those who hunger and thirst for it may be satisfied (cf. Mt 5:6)…But for this wondrous harmony to reign, we must accept Christ’s salvation, his Gospel of love, so that the many forms of inequality and discrimination in the present world may be eliminated. No one must be excluded. God’s plan is essentially inclusive and gives priority to those living on the existential peripheries. Among them are many migrants and refugees, displaced persons, and victims of trafficking.” (From Pope Francis’ message for the 2022 World Day of Migrants and Refugees)
What do I do to welcome the stranger and help the vulnerable? Do I see them in my community? If so, do I recognize them as a reflection of the Divine?
“In fidelity to our charism and the mission to bring all to oneness, we commit to live more simply, responsibly, and sustainably and to educate, advocate, and act in collaboration with others for the dignity of life and the care of all creation.” - SSND Laudato Si’ Action Platform Public Commitment.
How might a more robust embracing of this commitment help address the economic and social systems that all too often lead to exploitation of people and planet?
Pray – Prayer impels us to love and inspires us to service. SSND prayer resources.
Welcome – Explore or expand efforts to welcome the weary seeking shelter or opportunity in your community. Support SSND efforts to help Ukrainian and other refugees.
Educate/Raise Awareness – Lift up real-life stories, situations, and facts, thereby helping to dispel myths (like the great replacement theory) that are used to exclude, exploit, and discriminate.
Advocate/Stand With – Raise your voice in solidarity with the vulnerable and in collaboration with others (Talitha Kum, Pax Christi International, The Economy of Francesco, Caritas, etc.) to make sure all are respected and protected and to advocate for changes in the systems and practices that leave so many vulnerable and subject to human trafficking, exploitation, and discrimination.
Act – Explore ways you can adjust your lifestyle choices to live more simply, responsibly, and sustainably.
God of all - give us hearts that break open when our brothers and sisters cry out. Then surely all these things will follow: Ears will no longer turn deaf to their voices. Eyes will see a moment for grace instead of a threat. Tongues will not be silenced but will instead advocate. And hands will reach out – welcoming the weary, working for peace in their homeland, working for justice in the lands where they seek safe haven, and working to protect our common home – for the sake of all your creation. Lord, protect all who seek refuge and protection from exploitation. May they find a friend in me and so make me worthy of the refuge I have found in you. Amen. (Adapted from Catholic Relief Services’- A Prayer for Refugees.)
Prepared by Tim Dewane, Central Pacific Province, for the International Shalom Network.