Praying with the pope in June: Refugees

POST BY DStewart

Pope Francis greets refugees, Centro Astalli, Italy,

The Apostleship of Prayer is the Pope’s own prayer-group. Here is the first of two intentions he asks us to pray in the month of June, 2015.

That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.

Few have been unaware of the shocking news coming from the Mediterranean in recent months of so many thousands of desperate migrants rescued from the open sea. Yet they were the fortunate ones; many more have lost their lives in horrifying circumstances, drowning in the ocean because the boats in which they were fleeing were entirely inadequate and horrifyingly overcrowded. For many, trapped in the hold of these boats, the end came when those on-deck spotted a passing ship, a potential rescuer and, rushing to attract its attention, caused the vessel to flip over. Those in the hold stood no chance. These must have been moments of unimaginable anguish.

This continuing and worsening tragedy in Europe is not the only instance, in our time, of how forced migrants are suffering in our world. Statistics showed that, in 2014, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people (UNHCR figures). Most are forcibly displaced because of conflict or persecution while some millions became displaced after a natural disaster. Many millions are people who remain displaced by conflict within their own homelands -- so-called ‘internally displaced people’ while more forced migrants live in urban settings than in camps. Children constitute about 41 percent of the world's refugees, and about half of all refugees are women.

The Pope’s intention this month urges us to ponder what happens to people who are forced to move to another country. Such poor people do not always find the welcome and respect that this month’s intention suggests they should receive. Xenophobia and rejection is more common. So we are asked to pray about that specific part of the displaced person’s experience. Is there a respectful welcome extended to these to share our community and our prosperity, or are they treated with suspicion, denied access to services and the opportunity to work to support themselves or even subject to insults and violence? The Universal Intention this month invites us to an examination of conscience about how, in the words of Our Saviour, we ourselves treat the least of these our brothers and sisters and about what we might do to improve how our society values them, as God does.

For your own or your group’s reflection: be still, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring you to an interior place of prayer. Think about a time when you have felt helpless owing to circumstances beyond your control and have been forced to seek help from others. How did it feel to be in that position; what were your prayers and your hopes at that time? And if your pleas were rejected, how did that feel and how does it feel now, recalling that moment. Who did come to your help? Alternatively, if you have not had to suffer like this, can you think of anyone who has? What would you want to happen, as you pay attention to whatever desires you notice coming from the best part of yourself?

Scriptural moment: Deuteronomy 10:12-22, how the Lord befriends the alien.

Photo credit, top: JRS International 

David Stewart SJ, national director of the Apostleship of Prayer