The final Share the Journey event for 2018 was the Hull Advent Service organised by our CAFOD parish volunteers from across Hull and North Humberside. It was a truly multi-cultural event.
We gathered with our bishop, Rt. Rev Terence Patrick Drainey, the Rt. Rev Alison White, Anglican Bishop of Hull and Emma Hardy MP for Hull West, plus a good
number of people of different faiths and cultures for a very moving and memorable service. The Rev James Benfield welcomed everyone to St Charles Borromeo Church which was thankfully warm. After the introduction and scripture reading, we heard from four members of the Dirar family, refugees who had fled from war in Sudan and lived in different refugee camps for twenty years.
Arafa, the mother, greeted us with a blessing of peace in her native tongue and her daughter translated it. She was full of gratitude to God and to everyone for being invited to speak to us. Then her son, Waieel, shared a poem he’d written, rap-like, capturing his own reflections on all he’d lived through from leaving his childhood home to arriving in Hull.
Bishop Alison gave the homily, reflecting on sharing journey’s and the African Drummers and United Voices choir and musicians made up of people from many countries further enriched the service, under the expert conducting of Gabrielle Awre.
As we had arrived in the church, our eyes were drawn upwards to four paintings hanging above the benches, they were of different scenes but I kept returning to one of a woman, facing away, sitting on a rock in a barren land, it was of Arafa. There were others along the altar rails capturing other memories of various stages of the long journey they had undertaken.
Speaking with them after the service, I learned the family had painted the pictures themselves in a room in their home and they had been displayed at the Freedom Festival. They are haunting. The family had travelled from Sudan and lived in refugee camps in Libya and Cairo before coming to England. For people who had endured such suffering they were amazingly happy and truly grateful for all they now have.
The twin girls, Mays and Gaida, told me they hadn’t been to school for more than four years in the refugee camp and were now studying in college, one, art and the other, chemistry and physics, while Waieel is studying computer technology. It’s wonderful that they now have opportunities to flourish. I’m sure they will enrich the lives of many people with their talents.
The words of Pope Francis rang true: “The future is made of you, it is made of encounters. the future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people, who recognise the other as you, and themselves as part of ‘us’. We all need each other.”
The service ended with a word of thanks from Bishop Terry and a joint blessing with Bishop Alison. Grateful thanks to all concerned with helping to organise such a wonderful event!
Carol Cross, Community Participation Coordinator, CAFOD Middlesbrough.