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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An emotional Mass for migrants with Pope Francis

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Pope Francis washes the feet of migrants and refugees during Holy Thursday Mass March 24, 2016. Credit: CTV screenshot.

Pope Francis celebrated last night the Missa in coena Domini – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – leading the Church of Rome into the sacred Paschal Triduum. He did so at the C.A.R.A. reception centre for refugees seeking asylum, located at Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome.
Pope Francis performed the ritual washing of the feet of a dozen people – eleven guests of the C.A.R.A. Centre and one woman who works at the Centre for Auxilium. Four of the guests taking part in the ritual were Nigerian Catholics, three others – all three women – were Coptic Christians from Eritrea, three others were Muslims from Syria, Pakistan and Mali, and one was an Indian Hindu.
The CA.R.A. centre is host to nearly 900 asylum-seekers from 25 different countries spread across Africa, Asia, and even Europe. The majority of the guests at the facility are Muslim, and there are many Protestants and Coptic Christians as well. The Auxilium group that operates the Centre says that there has never been any tension as a result of the religious diversity of the guests.
In his brief homily, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles. He emphasized the common bonds that unite all people. “We are different; we are unique,” the Pontiff said. “We have different cultures and religions. But we are brothers and we want to live in peace.” He referred to two gestures in the gospel: the gesture of Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet, the gesture of brotherhood and goodness; and the gesture of Judas, who goes to those who don’t want peace, the gesture that destroys brotherhood. And added that there are also two gestures here today. At the C.A.R.A. reception centre: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers, children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated. Yet three days ago there was a gesture of war, of destruction in Brussels. People who don’t want to live in peace, the gesture that destroys brotherhood.

CNA/EWTN News have this report by Elise Harris, copied below in full. It includes the full text of the Pope’s homily:

During a Mass in Rome on Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of migrants and refugees, many of whom were moved to tears by the gesture.
The Pope told them that while there are some people in the world who seek to sow violence, Jesus shows us the path to unity, brotherhood and peace.
“Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are making the same gesture of brotherhood,” he said.
“We are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” he said, adding that “each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood.”
Francis spoke to the 900 migrants and refugees currently housed at the Reception Center for Asylum Seekers, or CARA, in Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome. Nearly all of them come from sub-Saharan Africa.
The Pope decided to celebrate his Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the center, after spending previous years offering the Mass in prisons and a rehab center for the disabled.
Nearly 900 migrants and more than 100 volunteers attended the Mass. Most of the migrants hosted at CARA are Muslims, and among the Christians, most are Copts or Protestants.
During the Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of 11 migrants and of one volunteer. Of the migrants, four were Catholic youths from Nigeria, three were Coptic women from Eritrea, three were Muslims, and one was a Hindu youth from India.
While tears could be seen in the eyes of several of the men and women whose feet the Pope washed, one woman was particularly moved. She had been tearful while the Pope washed her feet, but began to sob as Francis reached up to touch her baby.
In his homily, the Pope stressed that “actions speak more than images and words,” and pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from John in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet before being betrayed by Judas, who turned him in for 30 pieces of silver.
Francis pointed to two separate gestures in the passage, the first was being “Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest.”
The second gesture was that of Judas, “who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money…two gestures.”
Pope Francis noted that the two gestures are also present today. One, he said, seeing everyone from different cultures and religions gathered together.
“Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated.”
However, the Pope observed that there is also the gesture of war and destruction, and pointed to the March 22 terror attacks in Belgium.
The attack is an example of “people who don’t want to live in peace,” he said, but noted behind that act, “just as behind Judas, there were others.”
“Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood.”
Francis again contrasted the actions of Jesus who washes feet, and Judas who sells his friend for money. He told the migrants despite their differences, they are all “children of the same Father, brothers.”
He encouraged each of them, “in their own religious language,” to pray to God “so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.”
Please see below for the full text of the Pope’s homily:
Actions speak more than images and words. Actions. In the Word of God we have read, there are two gestures. Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest. One gesture. The second gesture: Judas, who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money, that … of 30 coins. Two gestures. Also here today there are two gestures. This, all of us together. Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated. One gesture. Three days ago there was a gesture of war, of destruction in a European city. People who don’t want to live in peace. But behind that act, just as behind Judas, there were others. Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood. Two gestures. Jesus washes the feet, and Judas sells Jesus for money. You, us, everyone together, different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers. And over there (are the) poor ones who buy arms to destroy brotherhood. Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are doing the same gesture of brotherhood, and we all say, we are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace. And this is the gesture that I do with you. Each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood. Each one, in their own religious language, prays to the Lord, so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.
 

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Pope Francis: Intensify the Inner Journey of Conversion.

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We are well into Lent now, but Pope Francis, in his Angelus address last weekend (6th March) called upon the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square to “intensify the inner journey of conversion” as Easter approaches. He said this while reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son. For each of us this “intensification” will be different. Perhaps the 2016 Lenten homilies given by the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa might help us. Zenit have made available in English the four homilies he has given this Lent to date (here as pdf). The remaining homilies will be added as they are given. Or we may still wish to sign up to receive by daily email these succinct Lenten reflections on brief scripture passages, together with review questions. They have been put together by the Southwark diocesan Stewardship Team in collaboration with the diocesan Spirituality Commission. Paula Pearce, our National Minister, is a member of this team.

There are still places available for the Cardiff event with Francis Dor OFM Cap, our Capuchin General Spiritual Assistant who will be coming from Rome, where he is based, in order to be with us. Called “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response”, it runs from 29th April to 1st May. See here for details and a booking form.

This is an update on the very difficult situation of the Calais migrants, that was issued by email on 4th March. See also the Seeking Sanctuary website: scroll down for the latest news and their urgent update. They have made it very easy to buy something online as a contribution.

A note on adjusting the size of the type on the website so that it is comfortable for you to read can be found here.
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Seeking Sanctuary: Emergency Appeal for Calais Migrants

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Dorothy Harte had drawn our attention to this appeal for the Calais migrants. Seeking Sanctuary is launching an emergency appeal for funds to relieve the immediate human suffering following the recent heavy rain and high winds in Northern France.
Our Gibraltar fraternity responded splendily last September to help Syrian refugees. If any fraternities or individuals are able to respond on this occasion please respond directly to Seeking Sanctuary – or to Calaid or Calais Action. On Facebook: see Calaid and Calais Action. On Twitter: go to @JoinCalAid and @calaisaction. Keep us informed by adding a comment to this post, or by mailing info@ofsgb.org

With the torrential rain and wind, and now freezing weather predicted for January and February, conditions in the camp have worsened and are deteriorating still more. Tents cannot survive these conditions, especially as the ground (an old landfill site and swamp among sand dunes) is not suitable for firmly securing guy ropes. There are a group of volunteer builders doing a fantastic job of making more sturdy wooden structures to replace the tents, but ground sheets and tarpaulin are desperately needed to weatherproof these, as well as to try to patch up ripped tents. (In Dunkirk the conditions are reported to be even worse, and supplies even more limited – but work to move people to a new location is now scheduled to start any day.)

Despite the opening of 1500 dormitory places in modified containers at Calais, the French authorities have further exacerbated the problem there by announcing immediate measures to clear all tents and structures in a zone at least 100 metres wide alongside the motorway and neighbouring houses. Aid workers have less than three days in which to help at least 1000 men, women and children to move and rebuild their dwellings.

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Due to the rain, firewood is not an appropriate fuel source at the moment. Gas is in high demand and there is now a good system in the camp for re-filling gas cylinders. But it is expensive, with each cylinder costing £21 to re-fill and sustain a family or small community group tent for four weeks. Tarpaulins and groundsheets are needed to weatherproof new wood-framed shelters and to reinforce the most flimsy tents.

Finally, the Calais aid warehouses have totally run out of blankets, we would love to take them more thick warm blankets this month, to be available for new refugees arriving in the camp with nothing.

The Tunbridge Wells support group which has already made several trips will again be travelling to Calais on 27th January with 17 volunteers. They had already raised funds for essential supplies such as clothes and footwear. We want to help to raise an extra £5000, with which they want to buy large tarpaulin sheets, groundsheets, gas canister refills (each lasts a family or small group for 4 weeks as well as thick blankets. This will help at least 200 of the people most in need, particularly following the proposed clearance of tents away from the motorway.

If you can help us to raise this money please let us know and we will pass on their bank account details to you.

With thanks for all that you already do on behalf of these vulnerable people.

Ben and Phil.

About ‘Seeking Sanctuary’. There are currently some 6000 migrants in Calais (December 2015) and more nearby. ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about this situation and is organising basic humanitarian assistance through Faith Communities and Community Organisations in partnership with experienced aid agencies such as ‘Secours Catholique’.
For further information on how you or your organisation can help, contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802. To check the latest news, visit our website.

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Migrants and Refugees

Dorothy Harte, our national Presence in the World minister has emailed from Florence suggesting some key current Presence in the World links: Calaid and Seeking Sanctuary for any one wanting to help the Calais migrants, Cafod for the Syrian camps, as well as Franciscans international and Caritas Europa for them all. The UK migrants bishop Patrick Lynch is suggesting most of these too. The pope seems to be liasing with Cardinal Schönborn who is helping in Austria but there is no specific site for that yet.

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And many of you may have noticed on facebook that OFSGB is @ work for Syrian refugees! Our Gibraltar fraternity have been very busy this week collecting supplies and filling many boxes for these refugees.

Is your fraternity actively engaged in Presence in the World projects? Let us have your stories: add a comment to this post, or mail info@ofsgb.org

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