Sunday, January 15, 2017

Welcoming migrants and refugees -- in laetitia!

Today is World Day of Migrants and Refugees, a day that should be declared publicly and celebrated more than it is. I know and love many migrants, some of whom started out as refugees, and they are all wonderful, hardworking, loving individuals who have enriched our society in more ways than we will ever realize.

Why can't everyone see that welcoming those who choose to come to our countries to find a better life is a good idea? They widen our hearts and bring so many beautiful gifts to share. Many of them, coming as they do from places where life is harder and more dangerous than we can possibly imagine, have a greater sense of hospitality than we do. I often think it must be difficult to come to North America, where really, unless we are Indigenous, we are all descended from migrants or refugees from years gone by. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten that deep sense of hospitality that came with our ancestors from the "Old Country" by sheer necessity. I think it is a sing when we fail to extend hospitality to newcomers and conveniently forget that our people were newcomers, too.

Even so, they come, they surmount the obstacles that face them, and they become valued and valuable members of our communities. Their generosity has put me to shame on occasion -- I think of the people I work with at L'Arche who add so much joy and enthusiasm to my days with their cheerful greetings and unexpected kindnesses.

If we let them, most of our migrants and refugees want only to become our friends and colleagues, and their ability to open our minds and hearts is something we ought to value more than we do. They are not coming to take our jobs or make our lives worse -- they are often fleeing situations that are untenable. We are called to let go of our paranoia and fear of the other, to be welcoming, to join hands with those who come from afar, and to raise a song of gladness. Why not learn a song of theirs, and teach them one of ours?

This evening, we had a beautiful ecumenical prayer, and our last chant was the one posted below. "Rejoice in God, people of the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!" is the direct translation of the Latin words. As the song lifted our hearts and reverberated through the worship space, I found myself thinking of the many refugees and migrants who have come to Canada in the past year, and how they have added to the mosaic of our life here with their many languages, cultures and traditions. It's definitely something to celebrate, with gladness, in laetitia!

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