Camino walkers reach Shrine of St Peter Claver

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ in northern Iraq
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ in northern Iraq

A group of walkers from Farm Street Church in London have begun a ten-day 'Ignatian Camino' to Montserrat, to raise funds for Aid to the Church in Need projects in northern Iraq, and the Jesuit Refugee Service UK. They will be following the route that St Ignatius walked hundreds of years ago, from the Shrine of St Peter Claver in Verdù, across Catalunya to the Abbey of Montserrat and Manresa. Among the walkers on the rout will be Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, the Superior of the Mount Street Jesuit Community, and Jo Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News.

Before they set off yesterday, Fr Dominic spoke to the Catholic podcast site,Totus Tuus (Totus 2Us), about the pilgrimage and about his recent visit to northern Iraq. “When you actually meet people who are in the most terrible situations, in which they've been separated from their families, from their careers, children's education has been disrupted ... and you hear people say 'We want to stay here; this is our homeland. Christianity has been here since the time of St Thomas and it's our country and we want to go back to our homes and practice our Catholic faith or our Orthodox faith or the religious minorities in the country, Yasidis, Turkmen, these other groups, 'We want to practice our faith in freedom', then it affects you,” he told Totus 2Us reporter, Ruth.

Perilous journeys of refugees

“There is something deep within these people in the most tragic of circumstances which is driving them on,” said Fr Dominic. “So that was what the trip was really about.  ....  The sooner that we can have the international community be clear that what has happened, especially since 2014 but which has been building up since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003, to be clear that this is a genocide, it is on religious grounds, then the sooner we can start rebuilding."

The Jesuit site that the walkers are visiting today is particularly significant. They are at the Shrine of St Peter Claver SJ, who worked for many years with slaves in Colombia. Today, in the Colombian city of Cartagena, President Juan Manuel Santos and the Marxist rebel leader Timochenko are signing the peace agreement that will formally end 52 years of fighting that has killed a quarter of a million people. “St Peter Claver ministered to slaves in Colombia for 40 years,” says Jo Siedlecka, “so his shrine is a fitting place to reflect on the evils of human trafficking of modern day migrants to Britain and those stuck in perilous conditions in the Middle East. As we walk on the 200K trek we will be thinking about the many thousands of refugees from war zones who have undertaken perilous journeys, on foot, to reach safety in Europe - without our comfortable walking shoes, or hostels to stay in each night.” 

You can follow the walkers on their route along the Ignatian Camino through the Farm Street Camino blog; and you can support them directly through their justgiving page.