CNEWA Canada

Many hands help to support our world’s estimated 130.8 million displaced people

Reflections on World Refugee Day – June 20, 2024

Refugees are deeply connected to both our Christian tradition and the daily realities of our modern world.

Whether you’ve come to understand this through the Church’s teaching, the more caring forces in our contemporary culture, or something as simple as the story of the Holy Family fleeing King Herod during the Massacre of the Innocents, most of us appreciate the plight and importance of refugees in world history.

Today, like yesterday, refugees remain on the move in search of safety, wellbeing and a new life.

In regions where we serve, both with our Church partner and colleagues, the desperate cry of refugees and migrants echoes through the alleys and valleys, conveying their deep desire to not only survive, but to retain a remnant of hope for a better tomorrow. In almost all areas of our work, we hear their stories daily. It is during the crucial first moments of displacement that their cries are the loudest, but their need for essential services, goods and pastoral support almost always extend beyond months, and all too often years.

On this day, when we call to mind refugees around the world, we think of faithful stewards like Sister Bernadette D’Hauteville and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who have been present in Aleppo, Syria since 1914. Before the outbreak of conflict in 2011, their convent was equipped to receive aging sisters from across the region. Before the civil war, the community counted some 23 sisters. Today, four remain.

Originally from France, Sister Bernadette spent some 50 years living in various places throughout the Middle East, but returned to Aleppo in 2014 to serve those needing refuge. In a recent exchange with CNEWA, sister reminisced how during the war she had a very important role to play in welcoming everyone – without regard to the circumstance or situation.

Millions of people, including many Canadians, have been steadfast in remembering heroes like Sister Bernadette and have supported people like her and families around the world facing the devastating effects of conflict, poverty or other forms of disaster.

Acts of charity delivered by us and our partners are all the more effective and expansive thanks to the ongoing generosity of Canadian Catholics. Despite living in a post-pandemic world with its own difficulties, members of our Canadian Church have been faithful in giving of their love, prayers and financial support to those who need it most.

As we mark this day in union with humanitarian and faith-based organizations around the world, CNEWA Canada will continue standing in solidarity with many people in need – feeding them when they are hungry, bandaging them when they are injured and sheltering when they have no place to call home or at risk of losing hope.

This work is a direct response to the call of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel, where we are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the sick. As an instrument of healing and hope, as per our mission, we bind the wounds of a broken world. Quietly, prayerfully, joyfully, we live out the great command to “love one another.”

May we continue to support refugees of all stripes and be great witnesses of love and care for those in need. Our work is incredibly important and life-giving, yet far from over. Why? Because every day is World Refugee Day.

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