The Vincentian Family’s Annual Theme for 2019 is Forced Displacement. We encourage you to reflect, pray and continue to serve our brothers and sisters who find themselves having to flee their home for reasons of war, persecution and natural disaster. We hope this resource, produced by the Famvin Homeless Alliance allows you to do so.You can download this document in PDF here.
Below are some key statistics about forced displacement produced by the United Nations. You can also read our briefing paper on forced displacement to find out more about the subject.
Scripture and Forced Displacement
The Bible frequently references the plight of displaced people:
1. The Exodus:
The enslavement of the early Jewish peoples and their liberation out of Egypt to Mount Sinai is captured in the early books through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 10:19, Moses tells the Israelites: ‘And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.’
2. Matthew 2:13-23
The flight of Mary and Joseph from King Herod reminds us that even as He entered the world, Christ Himself was forcibly displaced by the threat of persecution. ‘When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”’ (Matthew 2:13)
3. Leviticus 19:33-34
‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’
4. Matthew 25:34-36
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…’
St Vincent de Paul and Refugees
St Vincent made welcoming and caring for displaced people a central part of the ministry of the early Vincentian Family. Fr Robert Maloney, in ‘Welcoming the Stranger: St Vincent de Paul and the Homeless’, describes the work with those fleeing war in Lorraine.
Pope Francis on Refugees
The Holy Father has spoken often during his Papacy on the plight of refugees and migrants. In particular, he has highlighted the displacement of refugees attempting to cross to Europe. In 2013 he visited the island of Lampedusa, where many refugees are sheltering having made the journey across the Mediterranean sea. Reflecting on this perilous journey, Pope Francis gave a homily at a refugee camp in Lampedusa:
“Where is your brother?” His blood cries out to me, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us. These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity. And their cry rises up to God!
Pope Francis has encouraged a ‘culture of encounter’ as an antidote to the ‘globalisation of indifference’ he says pervades the world’s response to humanitarian tragedies. In August 2017, on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he repeated his call for a compassionate Catholic response:
Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43). The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will…
In this regard, I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate”.
Questions for reflection
– How can we learn from St Vincent’s work with displaced people?
– How does the Bible encourage us to treat refugees and ‘strangers’?
– How can we foster a ‘culture of encounter’ in our communities?
Prayer for refugees
Lord, you instruct us to welcome the stranger. In your kindness, watch over refugees and those displaced, those separated from their loved ones and their homes.
Grant us the compassion to show your kindness to strangers and to all in need. May we offer a welcoming embrace and create a new home for those without one. May we show this to all our neighbors, regardless of creed or color.
Grant this, we pray, through Christ our Lord.