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updated 5:08 PM UTC, Apr 16, 2024

The Refugee Crisis in Europe: “I was a Stranger and you welcomed me”(Mt. 25:35)

FRASCATI, Italy - "I was a Stranger and you welcomed me"(Mt. 25:35). This was the theme of the recent meeting on the Refugee crisis in Europe at Frascati, Rome.
Following the call of the Minister General Br. Mauro Johri to convene the emergency meeting on October 15-17, over 35 friars from 15 circumscriptions/countries responded. These included friars from Malta, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Spain, Slovakia, Poland, Britain, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, USA, Lebanon, Sudan and Eritrea. Among the participants were the Minister General and some council members, provincials, mission secretaries, Formation secretaries, JPIC commission members and friars working in social projects that serve the poor including refugees and immigrants.

The main purpose of the meeting was to reflect on how to respond to the current refugee crisis in Europe. In this case friars endeavored to answer four important questions:
1. What practical ways could we suggest/implement to serve refugees and immigrants in our areas short-term and long-term
2. How do our friars and the people we serve view immigration and the current refugee crisis in Europe? What can we do to change negative mentalities on immigration and refugees
3. Does your province have social projects targeting service to the poor and refugees? What do we need to start such projects?
4. In reference to Pope Francis' call to invite refugees in our houses- How can we welcome refugees in our houses? What do we need to do to use some of our empty or under-utilized houses for the service of immigrants and refugees?

The meeting started with situation analysis by presentations from Caritas International, Jesuits Refugee Services JRS, and the International Union of Major Superiors, UISG.

There were testimonials from friars working in countries most affected by the refugee crisis including Malta, Italy, Austria, Greece, Spain, Lebanon, Sudan and Eritrea. Br. Ghebray from Sudan and fr. Emanuel from Eritrea said the main reason why many Eritreans and others from Africa seek asylum in Europe is due to conflict, injustice, lack of job opportunities and poverty.
Br. Abdallah from Lebanon said that Syrian refugees make up 25% of Lebanon's population. With the support of the Solidarity office, the friars had started a project to support refugees in Beirut. Br. Philip Cutaja from Malta reported on the new Capuchin social project targeting refugees from Eritrea. The friars help the refugees process their residential permits, they provide food and shelter, and give medical support including psychological counseling.
Br. Birhani working in Milan told participants how the Opera San Francesco table for the poor in Milan, serves over 2500 meals a day to the poor including many refugees and migrants.
Br. Jaime Ray and Br. Oscar demonstrated through a short video how Capuchins friars train migrants to sustain themselves through micro self-help projects.
Paul Colman from Britain said that while friars in Britain don't have projects serving refugees they are ready to support such projects. Paul said that one of the main cause of the refugee crisis is climate change.

The participants had intense discussions through group work in which they deeply reflected and gave recommendations on how to respond to the refugee crisis as Capuchin friars in Europe. The Minister General, Fra. Mauro Johri, concluded the meeting by encouraging and challenging friars to put into practice what they had discussed and recommended during the meeting. A detailed report on the outcome of the meeting will be submitted soon.

Last modified on Friday, 23 October 2015 13:29