Parishioners from Holy Cross parish in Pontyberem near Carmarthen chose to make their Share the Journey walk at Kidwelly Quay which is located on the north bank of the Gwendraeth estuary.
We were guided by seasoned CAFOD campaigners, Paul and Stella Westmacott who are enlightened nature lovers and conservationists who embrace a liveSimply lifestyle.
Paul reading one of the refugee stories
And it was no surprise that the location chosen: Kidwelly Quay – is a Special Area of Conservation which attracts large numbers of birds to the sand and mud banks of the Gwendraeth River.
Wednesday 26 July was one of the most glorious Summer evenings we have enjoyed for a long time.
The temperature was still high as we set off at 6.30 pm but the wonderful, peaceful environs: the canal walk, salt marsh creeks with wildlife chirruping out of view, and a fresh-water pond all contributed to a very reflective walk surrounded on all sides by the beauty of creation in all its glory.
The setting we enjoyed was so far removed from that which many of our displaced brothers and sisters are facing around the world. That very fact heightened the poignancy of the heart-rending stories we shared together.
Share the journey is a global campaign to promote Pope Francis’ “culture of encounter” whose goal is to increase the spaces and opportunities for migrants and local communities to meet, talk and take action. We want to be welcoming and speak up for the rights of migrants and refugees.
There are many reasons why people migrate. War, persecution, natural disaster and poverty force millions of people from their homes. Most come from poor countries, and seek safety in poor countries nearby.
We cannot turn away. These are human beings with hopes, fears, desires and stories to share, just like each one of us.
Whatever the cause, migration has an impact on the place and the people left behind, the place of transit and the place where people eventually settle.
Pope Francis has declared this moment in time as a ‘unique opportunity’ for us to press our governments to make global commitments which place the human dignity of people on the move at their heart.
Jesus said: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Every encounter is an experience of otherness. It begins with recognising that our humanity is made up of different faces, stories and cultures. We carry this diversity within ourselves, while being united by the same dignity.
The violation of human dignity, a founding value of the individual, has unfortunately happened throughout the history of humankind. It is the most serious evil and the origin of many other evils – from poverty to exclusion, from hoarding of resources to the accumulation of enormous riches in the hands of a few, from violence to wars afflicting millions of humans beings.
To create a true, deep culture of encounter we must ask ourselves above all – as human being and parish communities – how Jesus would relate to the major modern exoduses of refugees and migrants? How would he respond to the poor people who look for refuge in our communities?
In the Gospel, we see how Jesus meets with marginalised people without any fear. He enters into the concreteness of their lives, their anxieties and their concerns and he helps them come out of their anonymity. They are no longer numbers, but faces and real stories.
Today we are facing major challenges, due, among other things, to the unsustainable model of development, a source of growing inequalities, precariousness and forced exoduses of millions of people from their own lands.
Many paradigms known up to today about human existence on the earth have been thrown into crisis: the availability of food, water, energy and natural resources, climate change, migration, inviolability of borders, the different interpretations of democracy, the models of family life and relationships.
Trying to face these challenges and overcome the crisis in a positive way is not simple. These changes are not only taking place quickly but they are also taking place at the same time, all over the world, and at the same time in the whole world.
The Share the Journey campaign is a start: to walk together in diversity and unity of faiths and religions, growing in reciprocal knowledge and respect , in communion and in common commitment for a fairer and more human world.
Pope Francis outlined a way forward:
“Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of people, in history. Our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate. I believe that conjugating these four verbs, in the first person singular and in the first person plural, is today a responsibility, a duty we have towards our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, of civility and of solidarity.”
Find out more about the UN agreements on Refugees and Migrants due to be adopted in September and December this year.
We all have a role to play in ensuring that the UN compacts keep human dignity at their heart. How can you help? Why not organise a Share the Journey walk in your parish?
If you want to chat about getting involved, please get in touch with us or email us.