By Robin Gomes
Caritas Internationalis is urging the people of the world ahead of Christmas to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees and expand the horizons of their hearts by organizing a short pilgrimage with the migrants and refugees in their community to learn more about one another and forge bonds of hope. “It is how we live out our journeys and how we treat the people we meet that has the potential to transform our world,” said Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in an Advent message.
The President of Caritas Internationalis, the global federation of national Catholic charities said that the first step in this direction is “quite simply to see the other person in their full God-given dignity and not look away in fear, prejudice or hatred.”
Caritas Internationalis launched the “Share the Journey” campaign in September 2017 to encourage Catholics everywhere in the world to get to know at least one migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story. The campaign also supports solidarity walks around the world.
The Holy Family - “Winners” and “losers”
In his message, the cardinal who is Archbishop of Manila drew attention to Christ’s birth and death saying the migrant Holy Family at His birth was “one family too many” for Bethlehem that “could not offer the care a pregnant woman needed.”
Despite his lowly birth and his humiliating and agonizing death, the Filipino cardinal said, through the events in His life, this man of very humble origins revolutionized how we see the poor and marginalized, how we think of power and who we deem to be “winners” and “losers” in our world.
Yet, the birth of Christ was announced to the shepherds, the uneducated outcasts in their society, and not to a rich landowner.
Like Jesus, Mary and Joseph the shepherds and the Magi, the Caritas International president said, we are called on journeys which require strength, perseverance, humanity, wisdom and courage.
Noting that the Holy Family again draws the “loser” card and becomes a refugee family in Egypt, Card. Tagle said Jesus is asking us to open our eyes to a new way of seeing a world where there are no people who are considered “losers”.
It is in the small and filthy places where our kings are born, not in palaces. The poorest and most marginalized people in our societies deliver true messages of hope to us.
Like migrants and refugees of our world, the cardinal said, hope is always on a journey forward. “By opening our eyes and reaching out to others, we will find our hearts carried forward by a great wave of love and our destination will be peace,” he added.
Bangladesh Rohingya refugees
Cardinal Tagle himself was on a “Share the Journey” event last week when he visited minority Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar sheltered in a refugee camp in southeast Bangladesh.
In a video message from Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district during his December 3-4 visit to the country, the cardinal said he was bringing his viewers not only Advent greetings but also a message of hope.
Kutupalong is the largest of the 30 refugee shelters in Cox’s Bazar district that is sheltering more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled deadly persecution in Myanmar's Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017.
The Caritas Internationalis president said his visit was a reminder to Bangladeshis of the visit of Pope Francis to their country a year ago during which the Holy Father also met a group of Rohingya refugees in the capital Dhaka.
Though a tiny unit of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Tagle said Caritas Bangladesh was doing “excellent work”. Alongside human suffering, he said he saw much hope that Caritas was bringing to the people.