The Jesuit Refugee Service has recently published a report ‘Being Human in the Asylum System; A fresh perspective drawn from Catholic Social Teaching’. The document calls for ‘an asylum system founded on justice, designed for the welfare of refugees and not for their harm’. It highlights concerns over the government’s New Plan for Immigration and recommends instead, an asylum system that listens to refugees and asylum seekers and strives to offer them protection; an ‘asylum system that allows them to flourish and rebuild their lives’.
A core aspect of Columban mission throughout the world is crossing boundaries of language, race, culture and religion. Accompanying and supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is an important part of Columban mission which is why we support the publication of the recent JRS report.
In Britain, Columbans participate in a network of organisations providing care and restoring dignity for the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who come to Birmingham, coping with a tough British asylum system and significant public hostility. At the heart of this ministry is Fatima House, a collaborative project with the Archdiocese of Birmingham and Father Hudson Charity.
Columban Interreligious Dialogue Coordinator in Britain, Mauricio Silva, supervises the daily running of Fatima House. He explains, “The recent JRS report analyses the ‘new, deeply troubling government proposals for an overhaul of the asylum system’. I hope the evidence in the report is taken seriously by policy makers and will contribute towards developing a newly reformed asylum system that supports asylum claimants and refugees to live safely, and in dignity, in a society that welcomes them and protects and promotes their rights.”
Education is key to creating a society that welcomes and integrates those seeking sanctuary as our neighbours. In an attempt to engage people in mission in new and creative ways, the Columbans in Britain developed the ‘Invitation to Mission’ programme in 2014. The programme provides people with an experience of cross-cultural mission whilst following their baptismal call and aims to nurture the missionary spirit. Interestingly one of the authors of the JRS report is Dr. Sophie Cartwright who participated in the programme in Peru in 2018!
James Trewby, Columban Justice and Peace Education Worker in Britain explains, “In our work with educators and young people we draw upon Catholic Social Teaching, reflections from past Invitation to Mission participants and missionary encounters to correct misconceptions about refugees and the asylum system, and invite people into action for the common good. The recent JRS report is so useful in analysing the current context and presenting solutions as well as challenges.”