And we could all be forgiven for thinking that Saturday 11 August would be a wonderfully warm Summer afternoon, after the heat-wave the UK had been experiencing in the previous weeks.
However, CAFOD supporters from the parishes of St Michael’s in St David’s and Holy Cross in Fishguard woke up to lashing rain and high winds off the coast of Pembrokeshire on the morning of their walk of solidarity to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and migrants in the run up to UN talks and new compacts due to be agreed in September and December this year.
A band of intrepid walkers, led by Naomi and Esther, set off from the towering cliffs which sandwich the small, rocky cove of Caerfai Bay situated about one mile south of the beautiful and popular city of St David’s. It’s the smallest city in the UK and earns its status as a city from the magnificent cathedral of St David’s which was built in the twelfth century on the banks of the River Alun.
The scheduled walk along the coastal path from Caerfai Bay, buffeted by driving rain and strong winds, to the isolated, spiritual retreat of St. Non’s.
A truly wonderful place.
In a windswept field off the Pembroke coastal path we were able to see the ruins of St Non’s ancient chapel. St Non was the mother of St David. There is a small shrine dedicated to her in the corner of the field. A covered well is also there which would have been essential to the local community back in the sixth century. Everything is beautifully tended and cared for.
Sisters of Mercy run the St Non’s retreat centre and they gave us all a warm welcome and treated us to a lovely hot cuppa and a selection of very welcome biscuits. Close by is a tiny chapel built in the 1930s. It’s door is always open and it boast ancient relics that have been rescued from neighbouring cowsheds!
This part of south-west Wales created the Welcome Fishguard Community Sponsorship Group which was one of first towns to respond to a UK scheme first announced in July 2016 by then Home Affairs Minister, Amber Rudd and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The scheme adopted a new approach to refugee resettlement in the UK which aims to prevent refugee families from feeling isolated and struggling to adapt to their new surroundings which can lead to higher rates of unemployment, stress, depression and other problems.
Under this new UK Community Sponsorship program, local groups agree to sponsor refugee families and help them integrate into life in the UK. They help their new families find housing, access medical and social services, arrange English language tuition, and support them with employment, leading to self-sufficiency.
Community sponsorship enables local people to take responsibility for resettling a refugee family, supporting and empowering them to rebuild their lives.
In Wales, there are thirteen community groups already sponsoring families. Under the umbrella of Hiraeth Hope, Fishguard residents have worked with others in Haverfordwest and Narbeth to sponsor Syrian families. Groups have also formed in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Cardigan.
Hiraeth Hope was set up in 2015 to connect groups in towns across Wales who wanted to sponsor refugee families under the community settlement programme.
A note on their website says that being inclusive and generous is part of Welsh culture: “the Welsh language word for “Welsh” is “Cymro” which means “one of us.” These towns are living up to the heritage of inclusiveness.
We are lobbying the UK government to put human dignity at the centre of the new UN agreements on Refugees and Migration. A united, global response from world leaders is needed to reflect the following:
- Respect human dignity
- Protect the vulnerable
- Support host countries
- Keep families together
- Tackle the reasons for migration
It’s not too late to organise a card signing in your parish. You can sign our petition to the UK government. We are hoping that more of you will organise a simple walk around your church grounds to show your solidarity with people who are forced to flee their home through war, persecution, poverty or climate change. Debunk the myths with our factsheet.
Lastly, thank you to everyone who braved the elements to #ShareJourney
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.
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?
“Hope is what drives the hearts of those who depart,” said Pope Francis on 27 September last year as he opened the Caritas/CAFOD Share the Journey campaign on migration.
The Holy Father gave an emotional endorsement for the need to build relationships between migrants, refugees and local communities; saying:
“It is also what drives the hearts of those who welcome; the desire to meet each other, get to know each other, to dialogue.”
These are the exact sentiments which prompted parishioners, lead by long-standing volunteer, Stuart Harper, from St David’s Priory Church in the centre of Swansea to reach out and organise their own Share the Journey walk and to try to make a positive difference to everyone with experience of migration.
On Wednesday, 18 July on a beautifully warm Summer’s evening, the parishes of St Mary’s in Dinas Powys and St Joseph’s in Penarth on the outskirts of Cardiff met together to `Share the Journey’; to walk in solidarity with refugees and migrants.
“Christ asks us to welcome our brother and sister migrants and refugees with arms wide open.”
Share the Journey is a global campaign launched by Pope Francis to stand up for the rights of people on the move. The campaign is about raising awareness of the perilous journeys that refugees and migrants have to make when they are forced to leave their homes due to wars, the impact of climate change on their communities or persecution.
Refugees and migrants are often among the poorest and most vulnerable people. Most people on the move are coming from poor countries, and most seek safety in nearby poor countries or within their own country’s borders.
The communities who welcome them are often struggling to survive themselves.
Time and again, Pope Francis has returned to the idea of welcoming the stranger – in words but also in practice.
He has lambasted the “globalisation of indifference” on the island of Lampedusa where thousands of migrants landed. He chose to go there on his first visit outside Rome as Pope.
Members of the Penarth community have been very committed to working for justice and peace for many years and once again they stepped up in support of the campaign.
The group heard several powerful stories during the walk which gave us some small insight into the difficulties and choices that migrants and refugees who had come to settle in Cardiff – a City of Sanctuary – had been forced to face.
Being a City of Sanctuary means building a culture of hospitality and welcome and is part of a national movement which offers sanctuary to people fleeing violence or persecution and celebrates the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees to city life.
We reflected on how different their experiences are to our own. The stories that we heard were heart-breaking and sometimes shocking because of the levels of brutality and violence involved.
Some of the walkers knew the individuals personally and could bring us up-to-date with their current situation.
Some were volunteers at Cardiff based Space4U an organisation offering friendship and support, English classes, recreational activities, a simple hot meal, practical support and information. ship and support, Engli
The Share the Journey campaign continues until the end of the year. If you would like to organise a card signing in your parish, or a short walk around your parish church, please get in touch with us. We’re here to help and support you.
Gracious god, help us each day to live simply, taking small but deliberate steps to preserve the earth’s resources.
Creator God, may the beauty and bounty of this world remind us of your overflowing love for us.
Help us to remember that you made enough for all; teach us to share freely with one another, out of love for you and our neighbour.
Merciful God, whose son became a refugee and had no place to call his own, look with mercy on all those fleeting from danger, homelessness and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief, inspire generosity in our hearts, and guide all nations towards a world where peace in built on justice and justice is guided by love. Amen.
On Sunday, 15 July, 43 parishioners from St Helen’s RC parish in Caerphilly (plus 4 dogs) answered Pope Francis’s call to ShareThe Journey which calls on us all to be “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.”
Parish priest, Father John Kelly, welcomed the walkers and the group was blessed with good weather (32 degree heat!) as they set off from the church at 3 pm to walk around the beautiful and historic Caerphilly Castle.
Long-serving local MP for Caerphilly, Wayne David, joined the walk and added his support to the global campaign which is calling on the UK government to take a lead when the United Nations meet in September and December this year to agree new global agreements on refugees and migrants.
These agreements will set the tone for many years to come on how refugees are treated and welcomed around the world.
“Refugees are not numbers to be distributed and allocated, but persons with a name, a story, with hopes and aspirations.”
Her mission was to find enough sponsors to reach her goal of funding a CAFOD World Gift – a Health Centre. This amazing World Gift can pay for the running costs of a life-saving clinic in a remote community. It keeps the clinic stocked with medicines, medical equipment and even provides petrol for the clinic ambulance, giving vulnerable people vital access to much needed healthcare.
Read Jenny’s moving account in her own words… Continue reading
Mr David Lewis, Head teacher at St Illtyd’s Catholic Primary School in Bonymaen, Swansea welcomed CAFOD in to the whole school assembly on Thursday 6 April where the children were given a “Rough Guide to CAFOD”
What does the D in CAFOD stand for?
Well it’s development. And this was a great opportunity to explain what a development agency is and that development is about supporting people in poor communities to receive basic rights such as food, water, health care and education as well as a way to earn money to support themselves.
On Thursday before the season of Advent began, Mrs Angela Heald, acting Headteacher at St David’s Primary School in West Cross in Swansea invited CAFOD South Wales to talk to the pupils about World Gifts.