A FAITHFUL RESPONSE TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN EUROPE

“The Gospel calls us, asks us to be ‘neighbors’ of the smallest and most abandoned.”~ Pope Francis

With 59.4 million displaced individuals in 2014, the United Nations has declared this refugee crisis the worst crisis since World War II.  Since the start of the conflict in March of 2011, at least four million Syrians have fled their country because of the war and persecution, simply because they are Christian.  Close to 2,000 have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2015 alone.  We have all seen the tragic images compelling us to act.

In an effort to bring humanitarian relief to a Europe ravaged by war, the Catholic bishops of the United States established Catholic Relief Services during World War II. Just as they did then, CRS continues to serve those in greatest need regardless of their nationality and religious or ideological beliefs. In September alone they will have served over 35,000 people, and there seems to be no end in sight to the conflicts generating this mass migration.

Pope Francis has asked parishes throughout Europe to house refugees, but the number of people in need is overwhelming and the majority of countries in Europe are unable to meet those needs. CRS is responding to the Pope’s call, providing relief to families fleeing conflict.  CRS is also calling on the United States to “continue and expand humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, especially in those countries in the Middle East and Turkey that have been sheltering the largest number of Syrians and Iraqis as well as countries burdened by this new migration.”

As part of that assistance and in response to Pope Francis’ plea for help, Catholic bishops in the U.S. and around the globe are calling on the U.S. government and the international community to “provide support to both Syrian refugees fleeing violence and to countries that have been at the forefront of this humanitarian effort.” Their recommendations include:

  • Building an inclusive and lasting peace to allow Syrian refugees – including those of ethnic or religious minorities – to return home and rebuild their countries.
  • Providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
  • Providing development aid to refugee host countries near Syria so they are able to properly welcome and care for the refugees.
  • Providing 100,000 annual resettlement slots for the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syria conflict.
  • Designating an additional 100,000 refugees to be resettled in the U.S. from other countries.
    Source: USCCB website.

The President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, KY, has recently published a statement, urging

“… all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons – made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.”

If you would like to know what you can do to help, both the USCCB and CRS have listed tangible actions which all of us can take in order to assist our brothers and sisters fleeing persecution and violence:

  • Pray that God provides his protection to Syrians and all other refugees displaced by violence and persecution.
  • Write … a letter to President Obama, urging him to expand U.S. resettlement efforts of Syrian refugees who are fleeing unspeakable atrocities and violence.
  • Urge … your member of Congress to provide urgently needed development aid for refugee host countries near Syria that have heroically borne the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis.
  • Contact your local Catholic Charities agency to find out how you can assist them in their effort to resettle refugees and help them build new lives of hope here in the United States.
  • Donate to the MRS Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program, which provides parish and community volunteers an opportunity to help sponsor newly-arriving Syrian and other refugees and provide for their critical needs.  You can also donate to CRS‘ efforts to assist.
  • 7 Things You Can Do to Help

You can also visit the USCCB‘s and CRS‘ websites to stay informed on their latest efforts to assist the refugees. May they find the love of Jesus Christ in those who respond to their cry to let them in.

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” ~ Winston S. Churchill