Migrants and Refugees: conference with a difference.

Migrants and Refugees: conference with a difference.

So often we hear about migrants and refugees. In this day conference, last Saturday, we heard from migrants and  refugees. Their voices inspired, encouraged and challenged the other participants representing advocacy groups and faith communities committed to helping displaced people who find their way to Ireland. The invited government representative sent an apology.

Following a very beautiful inter-faith opening prayer, Dr Anna Rowlands from Durham University, drew on her academic research and decade-long. hands-on experience to present some key aspects of refugee policy in European countries which at present is best described as Enforcement, Exclusion and Expulsion.

Catholic social teaching, on the other hand, sets out some crucial rights:

  1. The right to remain
  2. The right to flee persecution and, with it, the right to asylum
  3. Rights to meaningful participation in the new place

Participants heard harrowing and hopeful stories in the talking circles. We, in receiving countries, can easily forget that, though forced to flee, refuges love their own countries and would love to return if circumstances were different. We heard of the importance of religious faith in sustaining migrants and refugees and how significant it is to belong to a worshiping community in their new country.

A great learning for those who welcome migrants and refugees is that they are not, and do not want to be seen, as suffering victims. That is why we must be active in finding ways in which the newcomers can contribute so that their dignity is honoured and possibilities of participation realised.