Responding to Pope Francis’s call, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees was held on September 29. The Universal Church was invited on that day, under the theme “Not just about migrants,” to become aware of the various issues surrounding the situation of migrants and refugees in the world.
It is in the basement of Notre-Dame des Hongrois Church that the Diocese of Montreal suggested holding for a few hours a dynamic meeting on migrants and refugees. The goal was to understand the realities they face in Montreal, and elsewhere in Quebec and in the world. The event was in its sixth year.
Far from being static, this gathering helped to raise awareness through videos, music, reflection forums, discussions on the Pope’s letter and on concrete actions to take, and through a questionnaire to test one’s knowledge on migration in Quebec! Enough to enlighten and deconstruct myths over these realities.
Gathered at the tables were people of great cultural richness and experience who nourished the exchanges and thoughts. For Alessandra Santopadre, who welcomes refugees and asylum seekers for the Diocese of Montreal, this type of event is essential: “It’s not easy, nowadays, to talk about migration because we always fear otherness, what is different. So […] there is a necessity to keep raising awareness on these issues, because we need to start living together.” Alessandra is part of the team in charge at the Diocese of Montreal of the project Le Pont, a shelter for migrants and refugees.
Regina, an asylum seeker from the Congo, has been living in Montreal for the past two years. She can now express herself without fear, as opposed to the first 18 months.” She was afraid she would end up in jail, lose all her friends, community, family and work. In short, a whole lifetime built over more than 50 years.” Her fear of individualism and cultural contrasts led her to isolation until she finally dared to seek help: “With the help and support of the supervisory staff from Le Pont, I was able to overcome my fear.” Invaluable at this occasion was Regina’s testimony, as well as those from Argentinian economic migrant Claudia and Maria, originally from Poland, who volunteers with immigrant families at Sainte-Monica’s parish.
It’s not just about migrants, it’s about…
It is about our fears, about charity, humanity, people’s exclusion, putting the last first. It is also about the whole person – everybody – and finally about building the city of God and of human beings. These are the words of Pope Francis on this World Day of Migrants and Refugees. “It’s all tied up,” said Bishop Alain Faubert citing Laudato Si’. “What’s at stake, meaning […] the gains and losses encountered by our actions […] is our common humanity […]. I believe that what can be gained or lost has already been won over in God’s heart, because this is God’s project.” He also expressed his joy of being in an era in which the Church and humanity live “the Pentecost, the miracle of meeting people and of reconciliation.”
A Wealthy Indignation
“I feel in my heart the need to grow a wealthy indignation,” Bishop Faubert said. As Alessandra Santopadre also said, the world is craving for people who “do not only seek bad news and […] let themselves be stopped by their own fear of otherness, but try to go one step further […] taking tangible actions.”
For more information on Le Pont, please visit:
Here is an explanatory video of that day