Migrants : “Catholic Religious”, in our midst… (PE nr 1090 – 2018/04)

I am in contact with the world of migrants in France since the year 2000…in Paris…especially with those who have been waiting illegally for 10 years before hoping for a residence permit. Since 2012, I am in Lyon with those seeking asylum. They are better protected because they have an official document allowing them to stay while waiting for an answer from the authorities, which can take a long time. All these foreigners come without any preparation for what they are going to experience here. They are often weakened by their journey and they are completely disorientated because they have not found straightaway the country of their dreams…food, how to greet, ways of dressing… everything is new for many of them except for the small number who have managed to return after being expelled.

For us who live in religious communities – especially if one is a confrere from another continent, he has had many years to prepare for international life, moreover he will have no difficulty to find a bed and a welcome in our big houses, with confreres ready and able to help him with any problems. That is why, he should be fluent  (like those who go to Africa or elsewhere) in the local language, to be able to adapt to the local customs of the moment that are not against or too far away from his way of witnessing the message of Jesus. As a priest in Tanzania,

I never wore shorts which were, at the time I was there, only worn by boys in primary school. They were never worn by an adult. As far as

I could, I always ate the local food, but, of course, from time to time;

I enjoyed a good meal prepared by a confrere from another culinary culture. However, I never took a tin of anything into the villages in order to eat by myself in a corner as I have seen other European confreres do. It is up to us to show that no matter where, any person with a bit of an effort can live and integrate into another culture other than his own while still keeping his personality and involving others in all the wealth of the country from which he comes.

“I believe that from the moment when one stops saying, ‘in my country, we do things this way,’ we can establish a relationship and discover the riches of a people” (Sister Amanda, from Colombia) (La Vie 03/08/2017)

“The arrival of so many sisters and brothers in the faith, offers

the churches in Europe an opportunity to fully achieve its universality…the migrants have the duty to get to know, to respect, to assimilate, the culture as well as the traditions of the nation which is welcoming them.” (Pope Francis on the 28/10/2017 at the Congress in Rome on ‘Rethinking Europe’).

We have had emigrants who left by cutting all the bridges with their past…one talks nowadays of migrants who are in constant contact with their kin in the home country and who sometimes return to the country of their ancestors.

Georges Paquet

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