July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
The camp has been called ‘the Jungle,’ an apt name considering the conditions that exist there. Thousands of refugees have gathered in the Jungle, just outside of Calais, each with a story of hardship and horror. They are trying to reach the UK by crossing the Channel. Some try to stow away in lorries headed for the Eurotunnel, others in people’s cars or even find a way to hide on the trains. Their desperation mirrors the disturbing images we have seen of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in rickety vessels. Here, too, in the Jungle some have died for their efforts, though their numbers are not to be compared to the thousands that have died at sea.
The letter of James is something that we hear only once every three years, and it is worth remembering that two of our sacramental practices are based on this Scripture: the anointing of the sick, which when I was a boy was called Extreme Unction and was supposed to be reserved only for the dying (but is now much more the sick), and the other is the sacrament of reconciliation also known Penance. If you will take your Italian books and open to page 253 in the BCP, you will see this title, Ministration to the Sick, or if your prefer, 'minister per i malati.' This is based on this letter of James that we read today.
The Convocation of Episcopal Churches of Europe has long been on the front line of the Episcopal Church’s mission with refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, reflected in our Vision 2012 Commitment to Ministry beyond our walls. At its meeting on September 12, members of the Bishop's Council of Advice passed a resolution calling on the churches of the Convocation to redouble efforts to support the needs of refugees and displaced persons finding their way to our communities.
The children of Abraham have ever been reminded to care for the widow and orphan and the sojourner in their midst, who were the refugees and homeless of the time. Jesus charged his followers to care for the least of these and proclaim the near presence of the Reign of God – in other words, feed the hungry, water the thirsty, house the homeless, heal the sick, and liberate the captives. We cannot ignore the massive human suffering in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, nor in Asia and the Americas.
[St. Paul's Rome] Every day, hundreds of men and boys make their way to our church, descending the steps that lead into the crypt, and looking for answers and assistance in the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. Once inside, guests may receive a nutritious breakfast, have a chance to rest in a safe place, access a supply closet with clothing items and basic necessities, and play foosball, ping pong, or chess. Many guests take advantage of services and programs like language classes (Italian, French, and English), navigation assistance (where an experienced refugee guest helps new arrivals “navigate” the various immigration, medical and legal appointments required for integration, or access the services of psychotherapists, who help guests cope with what has often been a chaotic and traumatic journey between their countries of origin and Rome. We receive daily anywhere from 100-225 guests in the JNRC, depending on the season. A growing number of dedicated volunteers give of their time and talent to help ease the burdens that accompany each guest.
I am a former Sanctuary seeker. It’s something I don’t usually write or speak about very often. It’s not that I am embarrassed about my sanctuary seeking past or lack deep gratitude to the country that received me – I am and always will be grateful to this country for its compassionate heart and generosity of spirit. Having spent 41 years of my life in this country - more than in the country of my birth, I have become more than what I once was – a sanctuary seeker from a country torn apart by a brutal dictator, driven by power, greed and regional ambition. Idi Amin was religiously delusional and he treated people as pawns in his political ambitions with a complete disregard to the rule of law.