Welcome the Stranger

Welcome the stranger.

I’ve been working hard to help people understand the refugee crisis, and take action in this Year of Mercy.

I organised a session in my church where we started with an icebreaker on refugee statistics and also had interactive prayer stations to help people to reflect and think about refugees. The young people found it really striking that more than half of refugees worldwide are under 18 years old. It got us thinking about what it would be like to be in their shoes. My friend told me she was shocked that so many refugees are young, are unaccompanied children – why can’t they sort it out? It’s such a huge problem, there are just so many.

We used CAFOD’s Lampedusa cross action cards to write our own messages of hope for refugees. I’ve collected hundreds of these messages, and the numbers are still growing.

I was fortunate to represent the young people at the Houses of Parliament as part of the CAFOD ambassador scheme, so I asked them if there was anything they’d like me to say on their behalf.

There were other CAFOD ambassadors there and quite a few MPs, including the Shadow Chancellor. I was impressed. I spoke to my MP, Conor McGuin, about our concerns and he really listened to us. It was very encouraging because there’s so much bad press about politicians.

The next week, he mentioned our action on refugees in Question Time in front of the Prime Minister. The young people weren’t old enough to vote, but we really can make a difference.

This is what he said: “I had the privilege of hosting a group of young people from the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development in this House on Thursday. I said to them that when one looks at the images from Calais and the Mediterranean, one’s instinctive reaction—certainly it is mine—is that of a father, a brother and a son. We must introduce the language of compassion into this debate while absolutely understanding that tough decisions have to be made, and we must find a policy solution to it.”

This is a global crisis, but we can’t turn away. We’re all called to serve each other, like Jesus showed us at the Last Supper, and to love one another.

I’m heartened to know there are a lot of people who genuinely care, and would go a long way to show their support. I hope that, no matter what got them there, the most vulnerable will find comfort and peace.

Tom, Liverpool

National Youth Sunday