Reflection: Showing love for refugees

Barbara Kentish gives the reflection at the Home Office Prayer Vigil 20th March 2023

By Barbara Kentish

On Monday 20 March, more than 20 people attended the monthly ecumenical Home Office Prayer Vigil in London to commemorate refugees who have died trying to find a place of safety. The group has gathered every month over 18 months. Organisations represented included the London Catholic Worker, Westminster Justice and Peace, the London Churches Refugee Fund, the Community of the Word of God and Columban missionaries. Barbara Kentish gave the reflection.


So here we are, in the Fourth Week of Lent, in the middle of a worsening political situation. How can we continue to pray and have faith that God is with those coming to our shores looking for safety?

I think that it is this very sense of powerlessness that aligns us with refugees and migrants. We are unable, as things stand, to do anything significant to change the policies and hardline mentality of our government. Exiles on the move are powerless even to death, as we realise every month. We campaign, hold placards, try to communicate with our fellow human beings. We take comfort that all of us here feel the same outrage and sometimes despair that anything can be different. I have taken this reflection from a book on shared spirituality with refugees compiled by the International Jesuit Refugee Service.

‘It is in that weakness that we can take refuge. Weakness links us profoundly with God, because it provides a privileged area in which his grace can be seen, in which his sustaining presence can reveal itself, in which even his power can become manifest. This is why weakness stands as almost the opposite of sin. Weakness is a chosen context for the epiphany of the Lord, it is the night in which he appears – not always felt as assurance, but rather as a power to move on faithfully, even when we do not feel the strength, even when fidelity means simply putting one step in front of the other.”

The writer, a Jesuit Refugee Service director, points out an important corollary of our weakness, which might make us stop and think:

“The experience of weakness deepens both our sensitivity to human need and our experience of prayer. There is an important consequence for all of us in the refugee support network: we must support one another in weakness, forgiving one another our daily faults and carrying one another’s burdens. It would be absurd to maintain weakness as essentially part of our vocation and then to belittle those who are deficient, to resent those who are insensitive, unsophisticated or clumsy, to allow disagreements to become hostilities, or to continue battles and angers because of personal histories.”

There is a great tendency for us to become embittered and cynical about those whom we oppose. We have a clear duty to show love, however that is to be manifested, to those we see as enemies to the good of refugees. I don’t know quite what that looks like. But standing here in this public place, I pray that it will be revealed to us!

Let us pray: Jesus, who told us to love our enemies, and do good to those who hate us, bless our weakness, and give us the heart and the wisdom to follow your teaching. Amen


Love the Stranger – Document from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, March 2023