The Trump Travel Ban and the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme

Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.” (OFS Rule, Art. 19)

 
As you will know US President Donald Trump recently issued an Executive Order banning travel to the USA from seven Muslim-majority countries. Enforcement of this order has been suspended since a federal district judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against it. That injunction was upheld by the ninth circuit court of appeals in a 9 February ruling.
Now, according to various news sources, such as Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, President Trump plans to rescind his executive order and replace it with a new one. “Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns,” the justice department writes in a brief to the ninth circuit court of appeals. A draft of President Donald Trump’s revised immigration ban targets the same seven countries listed in his original executive order (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya), and exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they haven’t used it yet.
 
It is good to see the Franciscans of the United States have taken a stand on this issue in prayer for and solidarity with our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters. The Franciscan Friars of the United States have issued this statement signed by the Provincials of the seven OFM provinces in the USA. And Carolyn Townes, the OFS National Animator for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in the United States has said that “The U.S. Seculars will stand with and support our brother Friars as well as our Bishops.” She says: “Let us come together in prayer and solidarity for our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters!” And she offers this “Prayer for Migrants” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Merciful and loving Father,
We beseech you, open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality and refuge to migrants who are lonely, afraid, and far from their homes. Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst, to invite them into our communities as a demonstration of Christ’s love for us. We pray that when we encounter the other, we see in her the face of your Son, when we meet a stranger, that we take his hand in welcome. Help us to live in solidarity with one another, to seek justice for those who are persecuted and comfort for those who are suffering. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (The Prayer for Migrants, USCCB)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website also has these reflections on Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration.
 
May we in the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain stand together with our sisters and brothers in the USA. And may we, as communities, respond to the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme that Cardinal Vincent Nichols outlined to us when he spoke recently on the BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour. The Cardinal spoke about President Trump’s executive order, and he also spoke in praise of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme, a UK government-backed initiative that enables community groups – including the Catholic Church, its agencies and charities – to take on the role of welcoming and supporting resettled refugees in the UK.

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In the interview, the Cardinal explained that safety ‘is not secured by fear, it is secured by improving relationships…by opening up things not shutting them down.’ He also expressed concern that the executive order ‘increases the risk faced by Christian communities in the Middle East because it implicitly backs a false notion that this conflict is between Christians and Muslims. It increases the image of Christianity as a Western phenomenon.’
Reflecting on political leaders’ duty of care, Cardinal Vincent emphasised that this is ‘a question of how you exercise that duty’. The Cardinal expressed his concern that the executive order would not help. ‘Safety can never be the overall and ultimate aim, because if we try and live safely by simplifying, identifying others as our enemies, then we live in an increasingly enclosed mentality and an enclosed environment and that is not the best way for people to live.’

Speaking then in praise and encouragement of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme he said ‘The challenge is not only to the government, but to the communities in this country who often speak about their generosity, to really take up this opportunity. Then, I would hope, that programme can be speeded up and expanded.’

Cardinal Vincent acknowledged the difficulty in making decisions regarding acceptance of more refugees, but emphasised that ‘the intention that we play a concerted effort to solve this dramatic crisis of our time is very important because otherwise it is the extreme voices that win, whether they’re the extreme terrorist voices or the populist voices. I don’t believe that any form of leadership is best exercised by using fear.’
The full BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour interview is available to listen to here.

Do let us know of any initiatives drawn from the Community Sponsorship Scheme (or similar projects) that your fraternities, your regions or your parishes are engaging in or planning to engage in. An excellent Presence in the World project.

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Update: The EU Referendum; also Ramadan

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Our Lady of Europe, in the cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned (Santa María la Coronada) in Gibraltar.
Image by Falconaumanni – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17976196.

 
David Gleave, of our East Anglian region has drawn our attention to a statement by the National Justice & Peace Network about the debate on the forthcoming European referendum. Debbie Bool, our national Presence in the World minister, has suggested it be brought to the attention of the national fraternity.

David Gleave also refers us to this resolution on the EU Referendum made by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales:

Michael Simmonds (Bedford Fraternity) has followed up on the NJPN’s call to deep prayer on this issue by reminding us that we have six patron saints of Europe to whom we can pray for their powerful intercession. Michael says:

We are blessed by having SIX patron saints of Europe. We can pray for their powerful intercession for the improvement of the European Community, so we should have confidence to pray that the good things of the European Union can improve and the less good things can be diminished.
The main patron saint of Europe is Saint Benedict, [480-547] the father of western monastic life.
Then there are five co-patrons: Saints Cyril & Methodius, [9th century] apostles to the Slavs;
Saint Bridget, Queen of Sweden, [14th century], founder of the Bridgettine nuns;
Saint Catherine of Siena [14th century] who persuaded the Papacy to return to Rome from Avignon;
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein], [20th century] of Jewish birth. She became a Catholic and a Carmelite nun. During the Nazi persecution of the Jews, she had the chance to escape to safety, but chose to remain and suffer with her Jewish people and died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
As a bonus, we can also ask Saint Hedwig [14th century], patron saint of queens and European Unification, to intercede for us.
 
Saint Benedict, pray for us
Saints Cyril & Methodius, pray for us
Saint Bridget of Sweden, pray for us
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Saint Hedwig, pray for us.

Leda Aynedjian, of our Clacton fraternity, reminds us that we may also pray to St Francis. We also have St Clare, and all Franciscan saints; and we may pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Europe, a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary as patroness of Gibraltar. The entire European continent was consecrated under the protection of Our Lady of Europe in the early 14th century from the Shrine in Gibraltar where devotion still continues to this day, over 700 years on.

Thank you for these contributions, East Anglia.
 
Ramadan

Also from Eccleston Square, and at the suggestion of Salvina Bartholomeusz of our South East region, we share with you these comments by Katharina Smith-Müller, Interreligious Adviser to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, regarding the Muslim month of Ramadan. She made these comments to colleagues, as I understand it, but has agreed with Salvina that her comments may be reproduced here:
 
Just a quick note to remind you that Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, donating and increased prayer, has begun.  The Islamic calendar works on lunar months, which is why Ramadan moves through the year, and why many of the celebrations and products linked with it are decorated with a moon – the month begins and ends with a sighting of the new moon. This also means that the fast is exceptionally long this year – practising Muslims (apart from a few exceptions that are made e.g. for pregnant women) will not be consuming drink or food from sunrise to sunset.

There will be a number of fast-breaking meals that are open to all – if you are interested in attending one, see the links below, or come and have a chat with me. They are called “iftar”, and will be around 21:30pm this year. The end of Eid, in a month’s time, will be celebrated with one of the two Eids, the big Muslim festivals of the year – Eid Al-Fitr.

In my experience, Ramadan is a good time to strike up a conversation with Muslims you meet – I have found that “so, are you fasting?” usually leads to an interesting conversation, and I am sure that your Muslim friends and acquaintances would appreciate your good wishes during this month – a simple “Happy Ramadan” is usually very much appreciated (“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Karim” mean the same thing). If you have any personal worries that you would appreciate prayer for, now is also a good time to ask Muslims of your acquaintance – after all, there is a renewed focus on prayer life during this month.

There is more information here, and an interview with Sadiq Khan which I found interesting here

If you fancy joining a fast-breaking meal, there are a number of opportunities – the Ramadan Tent project is a good place to start, and you can follow The Big Iftar on facebook or twitter (unfortunately their website doesn’t seem to be working at the moment). There are listings of different iftars taking place across the country. There is also an interfaith iftar organised by the Three Faith Forum.
 
Katharina Smith-Müller also writes this interreligious blog.

Finally, this report on a Catholic delegation (Bishop Paul Hendricks, Canon John O’Toole, and Ms Katharina Smith-Müller – Interreligious Adviser to the bishops of England and Wales) helping out on 2nd June at Finsbury Park Mosque’s ‘Meal for All’ – a project for the homeless.

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