It’s almost Christmas. A time for family to come together. At an advent service last Sunday, we were reminded that not everyone is so lucky.
‘This is a picture of happiness,’ Majd said, holding up a photograph of his family. ‘but it’s one we could never recreate’. Majd, his brother Wisam and sister Ruba from Syria were among the refugees who joined CAFOD supporters for the Service in Hull on Sunday 11th December. The photograph was from a happier time before the war when his whole family were together.
The congregation of over a hundred people wrote messages of hope to be sent to refugees in the UK and in camps where CAFOD is providing support overseas. They heard stories of those who had to flee war and persecution. Anna from Darfur who said when her village was attacked: ‘I was so afraid I just ran. I didn’t even put my shoes on.’ Margaret from Pakistan spoke of the fear and hardship of leaving her home and her gratitude for the warm welcome she and her family received in Hull.
The Right Rev Terence Patrick Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough and the Right Reverend Alison White, Bishop of Hull presided over the service and the Lord Mayor of Hull, Councillor Sean Chaytor and his wife Clare were guests of honour.
The service was led in seven stages illustrating the plight of refugees: forced out by war, forced out by poverty and climate change, forced out by persecution, the journey, lost family, welcome or rejection. In the final section a cross, made from the wreckage of a boat that sank off the island of Lampedusa, was carried to the altar.
Readings from the Bible and the Qu’ran were heard along with the stories from refugees and the words of Pope Francis; “They are men and women like us… seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. The world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting”.
Music was organised by Gabrielle Awre, John Murray on keyboard, Cecil Jones on drums and saxophone and excellent singing from the Community Chorus and Freedom chorus, all added to a memorable and poignant experience.
With thanks to Mary McCollum, who is a CAFOD Education volunteer from Hull.