Next Monthly Prayer Vigil outside the Home Office – 17 January 2022, 12.30pm

The next monthly prayer vigil at the Home Office, Marsham Street, SW1, calling for Safe Passage for refugees and mourning those who have died trying to reach a place of safety, will take place on Monday, 17 January from 12.30-1.30pm.

In a leaflet for passers-by, the organisers, Westminster Justice and Peace and London Catholic Worker, say: 

‘We hold this prayer vigil every month in memory of all the men, women and children who have died in their attempt to reach Europe and the UK, as they fled from war, poverty and persecution. We are here because we believe in the human dignity and freedom of movement of all people and God’s commandment to love and welcome our brothers and sisters. We respect refugees as fellow children of God, not as aliens.

‘According to UNHCR there are currently 60 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 20 million who are refugees in other countries. The majority are hosted in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Ethiopia. Developing countries host 86% of the world’s refugee population.

‘Even though the UK is one of the world’s richest countries and its foreign interventions are arms trade help perpetuate the wars from which so many people are trying to escape, our government is refusing to welcome refugees. Instead, increasingly severe border controls are forcing refugees trying to reach Europe or the UK to take dangerous routes via the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and the English Channel, thus causing their deaths.

‘Meanwhile, in the UK, refugees fleeing violence and persecution are frequently detained in inhuman conditions, and more recently, housed in substandard accommodation such as decommissioned barracks. The process of claiming asylum can be highly arduous and frustrating and little support is provided, leaving people even more vulnerable and alienated. Many refugees and migrants living in the UK have no recourse to public funds, and are completely destitute.

‘We call on the UK government to create safe passage for refugees in recognition of their human dignity and the fact that asylum should be extended to them. We prayer that more and more people across Europe will stand up in solidarity with refugees and migrants. We pray for an end to the arms trade, militarism, and neo-colonialism that cause the conditions of poverty and conflict forcing millions of people to flee their homes.’

For more information or to join the group please contact Barbara Kentish, Migrant and Refugee Lead for Westminster Justice & Peace Commission: barbarakentish@talktalk.net

Prayer Vigil Outside the Home Office – Monday 13th December 12.30pm

London Catholic Worker and Westminster Justice and Peace invite you to join in our Prayer Vigil outside the Home Office, 2 Marsham St, London SW1P 4DF on Monday 13th December 2021, 12.30pm – 1.30pm 

On Wednesday 24th November, 27 people died when their boat capsized in the English Channel.  These numbers are shocking, but the people who died were not numbers. They were human beings, with a name, a face and a story.  We will read out their names  and the names of others who have died trying to reach the UK and Europe, thanks to the lack of any safe process.  We will pray for them, for their families and all of those who are still attempting this terrible journey. 

We will pray for those who profit from their desperation, and those who create the policies that give them little option but to embrace these dangers.  Since 1993, nearly 50,000 people have died either at sea or in tragic circumstances on their journeys, seeking safety in Europe. 

Bring your prayers, your pain and concern to the vigil, where we join in spirit with thousands who want to see an end to such suffering and tragedy.  

There will be prayers outside the Home Office on the third Monday of every month in 2022, that these deaths may not have been in vain, and serve instead to bring justice for people seeking sanctuary.  

Contacts for more information: Barbara Kentish, Westminster Justice & Peace Lead for Migrants and Refugees barbarakentish@talktalk.net  and Johannes Maertens from London Catholic Worker johanmaertens@hotmail.com   

Safe Passage – Sign the Petition

Join the charity Safe Passage in appealing to the Home Secretary for more safe and legal options to be made available for people seeking sanctuary in the UK from France.

To: Priti Patel, Home Secretary

On November 24th, at least 27 men, women and children tragically lost their lives seeking safety in the UK.

The appalling truth is that these deaths could – and should – have been prevented.

We need to make sure this tragedy is never repeated, so we’re calling on you and the Government to open safe routes now rather than repeat failed policies.

In the wake of this terrible tragedy, we need safe routes now.

SIGN THE PETITION

Drownings in the English Channel

Prayer outside the Home Office

By Barbara Kentish, Westminster Justice and Peace lead on Migrants & Refugees

Published on Independent Catholic News

Like many, I saw tonight on Channel 4 News, a distressed woman, knee-deep in sea waves, shouting to the reporter that there had been no water or milk in their camp, despite the presence of babies, and that was why she was taking to a precarious Channel crossing. Yet again, however, we were told that smugglers were to blame for their problem.

The drowning of 30 migrants off the coast between Dunkirk and Calais is a tragedy that should surprise no-one. Having visited Calais and Dunkirk over six years, I have become more and more appalled that thousands have been trapped in this area not only because of the iniquitous French-British agreement to close their borders, but also because of the hostile policies of other European countries. Many in Northern France have tried their luck and failed, in Germany, Switzerland and Eastern Europe, only to conclude that England is their only hope of survival.

Jesuit Fr Philippe Demeestre has just finished a month-long hunger strike in Calais, to ask for practical immediate humanitarian treatment of migrants with care and courtesy, so that the migrants can eat, drink and sleep without harassment. The smugglers are merely a phenomenon generated by their existential dreadful dilemma. It is clear that safe and legal processes would start to alleviate the immediate problem. More radical solutions, just, and long lasting, though certainly not easy, can then be sought. Even before the political steps, humanitarian treatment of the migrants needs to be implemented.

There will be a Prayer Vigil outside the Home Office on 13 December, from 12.30 to 1.30, hosted by the London Catholic Worker and Westminster Justice and Peace, This has been run for several years and the practice has been to read out some of the names of the thousands who have lost their lives trying to reach the sanctuary of the UK. If the names of those who died today, November 24th, are known, we will certainly be praying for them. All are welcome to join us. The Prayer Vigil will be held next year from January at 12.30pm on the third Monday of the month, also at the Home Office.

A further service will be held in due course on the seafront at Dover. at the two plaques commemorating migrants who have died trying to reach the UK. For further information contact barbarakentish@talktalk.net

Prayer Service to Welcome Little Amal to Westminster Cathedral

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Little AmalPicture by Jane Lowe

On Monday 25th October 2021 we welcomed a very unusual visitor to Westminster Cathedral. Little Amal is a 3.5m puppet of a refugee girl who has walked  from the border of  Turkey / Syria and is heading to Manchester, a journey of 8000km, in search of her mother. Amal’s journey is intended to raise awareness of the many people who undertake such migrant journeys across Europe, especially unaccompanied children. Each one has a personal story of loss, hardship and the search for safety. Amal has already been welcomed to Rome by Pope Francis in September and to St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Saturday 23rd October, as well as many other cultural and religious landmarks in Europe and the UK.

A choir from the Zimbabwean Chaplaincy were waiting on the steps with Cardinal Vincent Nichols to welcome Amal, while musicians and singers from the Congolese Chaplaincy led her into the Cathedral. Cardinal Vincent climbed into the pulpit where he greeted Amal with the words, ‘Welcome to our heart, our home…’

After her welcome from the Cardinal, Amal was invited to walk around the front of the Cathedral visiting the Chapel of St Paul, the Lady Chapel and the Sanctuary as prayers were said at each of these sacred spaces.

First Station – The Chapel of St Paul

Reader: Amal, first we would like to show you the Chapel dedicated to Saint Paul. Like you, Saint Paul was on a journey. His journey was from Jerusalem to Damascus. At the beginning of his journey Saint Paul was persecuting the followers of Jesus, but on that journey Saint Paul also heard the call of Jesus, which changed the course of his entire life. Saint Paul encountered dangers and stresses of many different kinds, but he didn’t give up because he was strengthened by his love of God and God’s love for him, and he was convinced that what he was doing was the right thing to do.

Prayer: We pray for all those who have fled from their homeland to avoid persecution, that they will meet with kindness and understanding on their way to a safer life. We pray, too, for ourselves, that we may let our actions towards others reflect Christ’s love for all people.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us

Whatsoever you do to the least of my sisters, that you do unto me.
Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.

Second Station – The Lady Chapel

Reader: Amal, we know that the walk you are on will lead you to your Mother. And, so, we would like to show you this Chapel which is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Having said ‘yes’ to God’s call, Mary, also embarked on a series of journeys, which are shown in the mosaics around the top of this beautiful Chapel; first there was Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, then to Bethlehem and later to Egypt, to escape persecution. Her life, like ours, had moments of great joy as well as great sorrow. She had to follow her son’s journey – Jesus’ journey – to the Cross, and watch Him die, the hardest thing for a parent to bear. But Mary also followed Jesus to Heaven, where she now prays for all of us.

Prayer: Let us pray for all mothers, fathers and those who parent us. Let us thank God for the sacrifices they make and the unconditional love they give their children.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us

And we pray to Mary, who is also our Mother, to intercede for us all as we say together……..

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my sisters, that you do unto me.
Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.

Third Station – The Sanctuary

Reader: Amal, Jesus’ journey through life did not end with His death on the Cross; through his Resurrection, He is still with us, present in the Eucharist, which is celebrated daily on this altar. Jesus in the Eucharist is the food for our journey through life, sustaining us when times are difficult and when our path is hard to follow and accept, which guides us to follow His ways of justice and peace.

Prayer: Let us pray that we can spread hope to those who are suffering persecution; may our minds and hearts be filled with Christ’s love and may we respond with generosity to those who reach out to us in need.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us

Cardinal Vincent led the congregation in praying the ‘Our Father’, followed by a reading from St Matthew’s Gospel:

‘People brought little children to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said. ‘Let the little ones alone, and do not stop them coming to me, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’. Then he laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing’.

Matthew 19: 13 -15

Amal embraces reader Megan Pereira from St Michael & St Martin parish in Hounslow.

Amal greets singers and readers on the sanctuary. The Sri Lankan, Congolese, Syro-Malabar and Zimbabwean Chaplaincies are all represented.

At the end of the service Amal received a birthday card from students at St James Catholic High School in Barnet and a gift of a ceramic angel made by students at Caritas St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre, Hendon.

It is hoped that the occasion  will bear fruit in the on-going work of the Diocese of Westminster which will aid the cause of refugees and migrants.

View the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Flickr account for all pictures from the day:

Little Amal, The Migrant Puppet, Visits Westminster Cathedral

See also – Little Amal is Welcomed at Westminster Cathedral

Good Chance Little Amal – The Walk website

Little Amal to Visit Westminster Cathedral on Monday 25th October, 2pm

Little Amal, a 3.5m puppet of a refugee girl, is walking  from the border of  Turkey / Syria to Manchester, 8000km,  in search of her mother. On her journey she will visit Westminster Cathedral on Monday 25th October at 2.00pm where she will be welcomed on the steps by Cardinal Vincent and invited to join the congregation gathered inside.

Amal has already visited Pope Francis in Rome and will be welcomed to St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on Saturday 23rd October, among a number of other cultural and religious landmarks in the UK who are preparing to host her.

You are invited to join Cardinal Vincent for this Welcome Liturgy from the Catholic community and significant event showing solidarity with those who make difficult and dangerous journeys to reach safety and sanctuary in this country.

We hope people of all nationalities from around the Diocese will be there to welcome Amal. It is during half term week, which provides an opportunity for families to come together.

Amal is celebrating her 10th birthday the day beforehand, on 24th October, so we will also be wishing her a happy birthday as part of the service.

Further information about Little Amal’s journey is available at  https://www.walkwithamal.org/

There is an educational pack available for schools at https://www.walkwithamal.org/education/

Please be seated by 1.45pm.

Prayers for Migrants and Refugees Outside Home Office

Prayers for migrants outside the Home Office

By JudyAnn Masters

Source: Independent Catholic News

A prayer vigil was held at the Home Office at noon on 5th October, in remembrance of the many refugees and migrants who have drowned in the Channel and in support of those forced to attempt the perilous crossing to England. Campaigners called for safe legal routes for refugees forced to to flee their countries to apply for asylum.

Tributes were also given to the mostly unpaid volunteer Royal National Lifeboat Institution crews, who selflessly serve to rescue all who need their help at sea. Barbara Kentish organised this moving event.

It was a grey drizzly day with the sun peeking out occasionally as Home Office staff came and went. The participants conveyed a sense of joy, respect, and purpose as they prayed and sang hymns together. Moving testimonies were read from the crew members of RNLI of their encounters with exhausted, desperate individuals trying to navigate the Channel’s shipping lanes in flimsy inflatable dinghies, ill-equipped to deal with the challenge. Lifeboat crews are committed to saving lives no matter who is at risk, putting politics aside.

There were placards, a baby and a “birthday girl” who had ridden her bike for more than an hour to join the group! Ann Jones, who volunteers at the Catholic Worker and Caritas, was 80 years old that morning and she said there was no better way to start her birthday! And she brought homemade brownies to share!

Thomas Caddick, from Catholic Worker, said he participated in the Home Office action, because he opposes the extreme threat and devastation deportation poses to extremely vulnerable people.

Brother Johannes Maertens, shared that the focus isn’t what we accomplished, it was being present in prayer for people. “We are reminding ourselves and others that refugees are in danger because of the policies that are made in this building…we need to pray for victims who are affected by these policies as well as the people who make the policies in this country…trying to grow together for a better humanity, to be more humane…to be a sign for people here, to be present for all to see, to stand in front of God to testify for humanity…”

Barbara’s prayer vigil was an inspiring blend of reality and hope, of justice and peace. Ben Beno’s poem will have the last word…

A refugee, a refugee,
Lord, into you I flee.
A refugee, a refugee,
O Lord, my refuge be.

Bend down and hear.
my prayer. Come near.
Save and deliver me.
My rock and wall,
a stronghold tall,
my fortress you will be.

A refugee, a refugee,
Lord, into you I flee.
A refugee, a refugee,
O Lord, my refuge be.

Then stay the hand
of those who plan
tp grasp and wreck and crush.
Come rescue me,
Come set me free.

Ben Bano (Seeking Sanctuary)

Praying and Campaigning for Migrants and Refugees – Barbara Kentish at Dover

The World Day for Migrants and Refugees was marked on Dover Seafront by Bishop Paul McAleenan and a gathering of supporters on Saturday 25th September at midday.

Barbara Kentish, Refugee and Migrants lead for the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, gave a reflection at the service and is campaigning against the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making its way through Parliament. Barbara writes:

Now, more than ever, we call on our faith to resist the draconian immigration law currently being discussed in Parliament. The example of migrants’ faith is so inspiring, as is the groundswell of public goodwill, such as we see from the RNLI. Many Councils are also agreeing to take families. Our country can be so much better than the spirit of the Nationality and Borders Bill demonstrates.

Ben Bano, from Seeking Sanctuary, also attended the service and writes:

The well known hymn ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ is frequently associated with military parades and services, but it was a particularly apt choice when we gathered on the Dover seafront for a service on the eve of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees which included a blessing of the sea led by the local parish priest Fr Jeff Cridland.

As we looked out to the sea, it was an opportunity for the 25 people gathered from local churches and faith communities to remember the dangers of the English Channel for migrants and their families in their desperate searches for sanctuary.

The service which was organised by ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ was led by Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead Bishop of the Catholic Church in England and Wales for migrants and refugees, who reminded us of the Christian duty to provide a humane and welcoming attitude to those who attempt to reach our shores having suffered poverty violence and persecution.

Alongside the memorial to migrants who have lost their lives seeking safety we remembered the powerful words of Pope Francis, ‘Every migrant has a name, a face and a story’.

‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations via partnerships with experienced aid workers. Our special concern is for the 2000 or so exiles who are stuck in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK.

They need food, water, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several organisations, including two Calais warehouses which also supply needs further afield. Contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802 for ways to help.

For more information see: www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com

Dover Prayer Service & Westminster Cathedral Mass for World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Mass at Westminster Cathedral, 26 September, 5:30-6:30pm

Bishop Paul McAleenan

The annual International Mass on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated by Bishop Paul McAleenan at Westminster Cathedral, Victoria St, London SW1P 1LT, UK.

All are welcome to attend in person or via the Cathedral livestream.

https://rcdow.org.uk/news/live-streams-from-westminster-cathedral/

Little Amal meets Pope Francis

Amal is visiting Westminster Cathedral on Monday, 25th October 2021, 2-3pm.

Photo: Sarah Loader

Photo: Sarah Loader

Source: Independent Catholic News

On Friday 10th September Little Amal, the 3.5 metre puppet of a nine-year-old Syrian refugee girl who is on an 8,000 km journey from the Syrian border to Manchester, was greeted in the Vatican by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has been deeply engaged in the plight of refugees over recent years including many who fled war-torn Syria in search of safety. Little Amal was invited to the Vatican where the Pope blessed her and wished her well on her journey in search of her mother. She is an emblem of the millions of displaced refugee children separated from their families. Embodying the urgent message “Don’t forget about us”, her journey shines a light on the stories of the refugee children she represents.

“Among migrants, says Pope Francis, children like Amal constitute the most vulnerable group, because as they face the life ahead of them, they are invisible and voiceless. Amal invites us to open our eyes and hear their voices, so please come to meet her when she is in Rome.”

The Walk, the name given to the long journey of the puppet, consists of more than 100 acts of welcome in 65 villages, towns and cities. Beginning in the city of Gaziantep in south-east Turkey on 27 July and ending in Manchester on 3 November, at each stage of her journey she is being welcomed by artistic and cultural events created by and reflective of the communities she visits.

Addressing Amal as she stood amidst a crowd in St Peter’s Square, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees section of the Vatican, said: “Amal is great and beautiful. Meeting her is a pleasure, but she reminds us that encountering asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in our midst requires more than just looking.”

To celebrate the occasion of Amal’s arrival, the diocese of Rome organised a party for hundreds of children from different Roman parishes.

Little Amal is at the heart of The Walk, one of the most ambitious artworks ever created, produced by Good Chance Theatre under the artistic direction of Amir Nizar Zuabi and producers Stephen Daldry, David Lan, Tracey Seaward and Naomi Webb, in association with the Handspring Puppet Company.

A 70+ page Education & Activity pack and Teachers’ Notes in six languages featuring illustrations by Syrian artist Diala Brisly. This can be downloaded from The Walk’s website: www.walkwithamal.org/education/activity-pack/

The Walk brings together celebrated artists, major cultural institutions, community groups and humanitarian organisations as well as municipalities, civic and humanitarian organisations, faith leaders and schools. For a full list of partners please visit: www.walkwithamal.org/friends/

The Walk website contains a donation page which invites the public to help to fund Amal’s journey at £1 per step.

The full programme is available on The Walk’s website: www.walkwithamal.org/events/