Renew efforts to build peace, help refugees, pope says

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By Carol Glatz

CITY (CNS) — Assist and accompany refugees while working to build peace in the
world, Pope Francis urged on the eve of World Refugee Day.

are people like everyone, but war took away their home, work, relatives and
friends,” he said in the run-up to the United Nations-sponsored day June

the faces and hearing the stories of refugees should lead Christians “to renew our
obligation to build peace through justice,” he said after praying the
Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 19.

is why we want to stand with them — to encounter them, welcome them, listen to
them — in order to become together with them artisans of peace, according to
God’s will,” the pope said, referring to the day’s theme, “We Stand

pope’s appeal followed a joint effort by the Vatican police, the Greek
government and Rome’s Sant’Egidio Community to bring a group of Syrian refugees
to Italy.

Vatican police accompanied nine refugees — six adults and three children —
from Athens to Rome June 16. The community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay
organization, was arranging their housing.

Syrian citizens, including two Christians, had been living in a refugee camp on
the island of Lesbos — the same island Pope Francis visited in April to
highlight the dramatic situation of the people there. He brought three refugee
families on his flight back to Rome.

Francis’ appeals and concrete actions tell the world that it is feasible to
offer real help to refugees, said Jesuit Father Thomas Smolich, international
director of Jesuit Refugee Service.

and everyday people “get a pretty good model” from Pope Francis about
the Catholic and humanitarian duty of welcoming, advocating for and assisting
refugees, Father Smolich told Catholic News Service June 20.

would encourage people, especially on World Refugee Day, to contact the part of
the church that works with refugees,” for example, Catholic Charities in
the United States or Jesuit Refugee Service in Europe, he said, or ask and find
out who else is helping in their community.

are so many things to do,” he said, such as visiting refugees, helping
with free meals, doing advocacy work, becoming part of a long-term coordinated
effort or just helping out when time allows. “The possibilities are

are doing this” in spite of what some political leaders say, he said,
“so it is a question of bringing it to light” and inspiring more
people to help rather than be paralyzed by fear.

many fears can be legitimate, “fear often translates into anxiety,”
which “warps our understanding” of what is really happening and what
can be done, he said.

familiar with or getting to know “real people who share our fears,”
but have experienced the difficulties of having to flee their homes, the Jesuit
said, helps change the discussion from being centered on “‘What am I
afraid of’ to ‘How can we build solidarity?'”

global estimates say more than 60 million people are fleeing violence, conflict
or persecution, the best way to digest such a statistic is “to meet people
one-on-one or hear them speak” so they don’t remain an abstract number,
the priest said.

was urging people to meet with refugees or watch interviews on the JRS YouTube
channel in order “to enable refugees to speak out about their hopes, their
future” and help others learn about their lives, Father Smolich said.

the International Catholic Migration Commission was commemorating World Refugee
Day by sharing stories from resettled refugees around the world “as a
witness to their strength and determination despite the hardship they have
endured,” the commission said.

said it hoped the stories would encourage those still on the move and call attention
to the benefits refugees bring to host countries.

were also invited during the Year of Mercy to continue sending messages of hope
on social media using the #HandsOfMercy hashtag and share personal stories with
#StoryOfMercy or #WithRefugees.

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