Vol. 167 No. 25 - June 18 - June 24, 2016
The United Nations observes every June 20 as World Refugee Day to honour the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. The day is also meant to be a reminder of the plight of the refugees and other forcibly displaced persons (IDPs) in our world today, and of the need and urgency that Governments and people respond to this tragic reality in more humane, substantial and pragmatic ways.
The 1951 Refugee Convention (signed by 144 countries) and the 1967 Protocol which followed, are the key legal documents which define the term 'refugee' and outline the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligation of States to protect them. "A refugee has the right to safe asylum. However, international protection comprises more than physical safety. Refugees should receive at least the same rights and basic help as any other foreigner who is a legal resident, including freedom of thought, of movement, and freedom from torture and degrading treatment. Economic and social rights are equally applicable. Refugees should have access to medical care, schooling and the right to work."
The UN Refugee Agency (www.unhcr.org) estimates around sixty million refugees worldwide today. This number can be augmented several times over, if we consider the fact that in many countries, scant attention is paid to those who are internally displaced. It is simply unbelievable the way people are dishoused and dispossessed all across the globe. A place which they once called home, where they lived in peace, harmony and security, is snatched away from them because of 'man's inhumanity to man'.
In the past few years, we have seen millions of people displaced: over five million Syrian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey; an estimated 12 million people have been displaced within their own countries in the Middle East; more than five million were internally displaced in Sub-Saharan Africa in just over a year. Tens and thousands of Muslim Rohingyas have fled Myanmar in the last year, and many of them today live in dehumanised conditions. The list of IDPs in India due to mega-projects and communal violence is ever increasing.
Pope Francis has made 'the care and concern for refugees' the hallmark of his papacy. In this Year of Mercy, he has provided the faithful with tangible acts of compassion and service: from washing the feet of refugees on Maundy Thursday to bringing back with him three Syrian refugee families after his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos.
Long before the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing death in conflict and hunger on a journey of hope, the gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned.
In the context of the recent crisis of Syrian refugees coming into Europe, Pope Francis told a crowd of thousands of people in St Peter's Square, last September 6, that "it was not enough to simply encourage the refugees with calls for courage and patience. Instead, tangible demonstrations of help are required. May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family."
A tough call indeed! But that's what the Year of Mercy is all about: reaching out to the homeless, the dispossessed; to the least of our sisters and brothers.
(Fr Cedric Prakash sj is a human rights activist and is currently based in Lebanon with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications.)
No matter how complicated it is to do, all children have a need and a right to religious education and access to the Sacraments, said a priest who was born deaf and became blind 16 years ago.
Opening the Year of Mercy jubilee celebration for the sick and persons with disabilities, Redemptorist Fr Cyril Axelrod insisted sign language, tactile sign language and body language are "gifts of the Holy Spirit" meant to help Christians share the Gospel with all people.
Standing in the sanctuary of a Rome church June 10, the priest from South Africa used International Sign Language for brief introductory remarks, then took questions from the congregation that was made up mostly of Italian Catholics who are deaf and their family members.
The Italians signed their questions in Italian Sign Language, and a translator took both of Fr Axelrod's hands and signed the questions for him using the tactile form of the language. She then stepped aside to watch his reply and relay it to those present.
General Douglas MacArthur was one of the greatest military leaders of all time. He led the Allied Armies to victory in the Pacific. Then he commanded United Nations forces in Korea, and his surprise landing at Incheon was one of the most brilliant manoeuvres in the history of warfare. But there is another reason for my admiration of this man. It can be traced to a speech he gave in 1942, after he had been given an award for being a good father. This is what he said on that day: "But I am prouder, infinitely prouder, to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build. The father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentialities of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle, but in the home."
Someone said, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one." There is truth to this statement. Children may not remember what you say, but they are usually impacted for life by what you do.
Prospects for a new round of nuclear disarmament worldwide are bleaker than just a few years ago, because governments have lost the willingness to shrink their arsenals in the face of rising security threats.
Heightening tensions between the United States and Russia, North Korea's drive to develop intercontinental missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, and a growing desire among non-nuclear states to build their own lethal weapons were cited as roadblocks to deeper reductions in the world's nuclear arsenals during a May 17 webinar sponsored by the Pax Christi International Washington Working Group.
Presenters Benedictine Sr Joan Chittister, an author and speaker, Jesuit Fr Drew Christiansen, distinguished professor of ethics and global development at Georgetown University, and Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, painted a grim picture of the prospects for nuclear disarmament and urged viewers to step up their activism if they want to change the scenario.
John the Baptist was a fascinating man. He ate locusts and honey in the desert. Crowds came to him, but he constantly told them that he was nothing—that the coming Messiah was everything. In the end, his life was cut short, because he criticised a king for sinning.
John the Baptist was an unusual character for sure. But incredibly, Jesus Christ called him the greatest of men (Matthew 11:11).
There's much more to this story, including the fact that Elizabeth and Mary (the mother of Jesus) were related, and that in Elizabeth's womb, John leaped for joy in recognition of Jesus (verse 41)! The birth of Jesus came about six months after John's birth.
God had performed a miracle and brought John into the world for a special purpose!
The work of John the Baptist
God had set John apart for a special mission. He was to preach about repentance and to baptise people in water. He was also to preach about the Kingdom of God, and prepare a people for the coming of the Messiah.
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