We are all familiar with the migration of the Holy Family to Egypt because of Herod’s edict to kill all males ages two and under. Scripture does not reveal how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fared in the foreign land, or whether the Egyptians received them kindly or with hostility. But we do know they had become refugees, fleeing from conflict.
Not much has changed since the time of the Holy Family and their ancestors. Across the globe today, millions of people are forced to leave their homelands on account of persecution, war, violence, extreme poverty, political instability, social opinions, religious and ethnic discrimination, and even from natural disasters. These people migrate hoping to live a better life with dignity and respect.
Most refuges are poor and cannot afford to have sponsors from other nations to bring them security. Many of them are held in refugee camps for extended periods before they are permitted resettlement. The toll is heavy on these people. Refugees are exiled persons who depend totally on the mercy of others. For refugees, it is a matter of survival rather than development. The must live in restricted places. Although free medical attention and education are required, these cannot provide full service. Additionally, within poorer nations, the refugees can be victims of violence, rape, and abuse. (For an example, see Refugees: Life in Camps - Part 1). A nation that accepts refugees must remember that it is their duty to accept these exiled and “help them to integrate them into itself as new members.” (Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, no. 106.) Doing so is an expression of solidarity where we are all recognized as brothers and sisters in the human family. Pope Benedict XVI affirms that
human brotherhood is the, at times surprising, experience of a relationship that unites, of a profound bond with the other, different from me, based on the simple fact of being human beings. Assumed and lived responsibly, it fosters a life of communion and sharing with all and in particular with migrants; it supports the gift of self to others, for their good, for the good of all, in the local, national, and world political communities. All, therefore, belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded. (Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for the 97th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2011)
In a certain sense, we can say that we are all refugees, in the spiritual sense of searching for our true homeland which is with God. Caring for the refugees in our world today is thus a way of living out this spiritual reality in a concrete way, by helping the displaced find peace and security in this world.
Br. Warren Perrotto, MSC