A week of action, hope and invitation: Refugee Week 2023 Diary

James Trewby, a Columban Education worker, reflects on his eventful time during Refugee Week 2023, engaging in training, prayer, advocacy, walks, workshops, and performances.

Refugee Week-themed day at Our Lady's Catholic College in Lancaster
Refugee Week-themed day at Our Lady's Catholic College in Lancaster

Saturday, Chesterfield
With the Director of Youth Ministry from Hallam Diocese, leading a training day for a group of teachers and sixth formers we’re taking to visit refugee projects in Calais. Heart-breaking moments as they read reports of human rights violations at our border, but so encouraging seeing their desire to learn and engage others with the truth of what is happening. We use the ‘Franciscan blessing’, “May God bless us with discomfort at half-truths…”

Sunday (Father’s Day), Birmingham
At bedtime, I talk with my children about the work I’m doing this week. They pray for refugee dads and their children.

Monday, outside the Home Office, London
Our Columban group joins many others praying in the street outside the Home Office, lamenting the death and suffering caused and exacerbated by our government’s policies. I pray in particular for my Columban friends and colleagues answering the gospel call to ‘welcome the stranger’, including those accompanying and accommodating asylum seekers in Birmingham, raising awareness in the media, and running centres in Ireland, Taiwan, Chile and the US/Mexico border.

Tuesday, Solihull
A walk with an asylum-seeking friend, with thanks to Restore’s wonderful befriending programme. A joy to hear some good news: a photo he has taken will be featured in a public exhibition.

Wednesday, Lancaster
A very early train leads to a day for sixth-form students at Our Lady’s Catholic College. These young adults give me hope! They listen, learn, reflect and hunger for justice. In response to their enthusiasm and invitation, I’ll be back in September for a ‘day of action”, approaching local businesses about lifting the ban on asylum seekers working. Thank God for young people!

Thursday, St. Joseph’s Primary School, Birmingham
Alongside the school’s mission team (pupils aged 9-11) and people with lived experience of the asylum system from ‘Stories of Hope and Home‘, running a workshop for parents. The school children knew what they were talking about, and wanted the parents to go home better informed and ready to challenge misconceptions about people seeking safety in the UK. May we always be willing to learn?

Friday, Upton Hall School, Birkenhead and the Rep Theatre, Birmingham
Working with friends from Pax Christi, Caritas, the FCJ Sisters and Asylum Matters to help 150 15-year-olds explore the call to See, Judge and Act on issues affecting asylum seekers in the UK. And in the evening, my refugee week comes to an end with the first performance of ‘In the Shadow of the Trees’, a piece written and performed by people with lived experience of seeking sanctuary in the UK from the organisation Stories of Hope and Home. This is a charity I’m proud to support as a trustee as part of my work with the Columbans.

What a week! I thank God for my job, for the privilege of doing this work, and for all the people whose generous donations to the Columbans make it possible.

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