Parishes Called To Take In Desperate Refugee Families

Priest says Govt inaction is an ‘embarrassment’

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Irish parishioners have been urged to take the lead in welcoming desperate migrants fleeing persecution and war by offering them accommodation in the local community.

The bold move would offer a much-needed grassroots attempt to tackle Europe’s migration crisis in the absence of coherent political leadership.

Fr Alan Hilliard, who has advised the bishops’ conference on migration for many years has said the Church should “become the main agent for the resettlement of refugees and asylum seekers”.

Writing in The Irish Catholic this week, he asks “why can’t every parish in Ireland volunteer to take a family from Syria, Afghanistan or Eritrea?”

The call was echoed by Bishop of Limerick Dr Brendan Leahy who referred to the strong history of religious orders in Ireland working with vulnerable and marginalised communities across the country.

“The time is on us now again to have such courage as we all have a role to play, locally and nationally in response to what is truly a tragic and shocking crisis,” he said.

Bishop Leahy said he and his diocese “would certainly be willing to play our part in a Government-led interagency forum, which I believe is a necessity right now so that we can all pool our resources and find the best and quickest way forward for a collective response”, but he cautioned that existing facilities offered to Ireland’s current asylum seekers left him “anything but reassured as to their suitability, as premises and locations”.

“Surely we can do more than this to welcome people to our country, not least people who have escaped horrific and life-threatening circumstances at home.”

Bishop William Crean of Cloyne, who leads the Church’s aid agency Trócaire insisted that Ireland should do more for struggling refugees.

“Ireland could take a good deal more,” he said. “We should be generous and accept a larger allocation.”

Referring to the work of the Naval Service in rescuing migrants and asylum seekers from the Mediterranean, Bishop Crean said: “It is one thing to take people from the water, but another to offer a life of dignity.”

Trócaire’s executive director Eamon Meehan agreed, arguing that Ireland could be “proactive” on the crisis by taking “several times more than the agreed 600 refugees”.

“Now is the time for us, recognising our own history of migration, to respond in a way that shows we recognise their humanity and their suffering,” he told The Irish Catholic.

Fr Hilliard also strongly criticised Enda Kenny’s Government on the issue. “Ireland is an embarrassment at the moment,” he said.

“The fear of rocking the diplomatic boat and the ongoing political positioning is evidence of a nation that has lost its moral compass…it’s time for Ireland to act unilaterally using its history and isolation to make a difference.”

Columban priest, Fr Bobby Gilmore, president of the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland, agreed that “it is time for parishes and for religious houses to step up to the plate on this”.

“Parishes at the local level have a role to play,” he said. Stating that “we should be ashamed” both at the treatment of struggling human beings and Ireland’s level of response, Fr Gilmore however added his belief that ordinary Irish people are ready to do more on an individual and collective basis. “There is so much good will out there. People are disgusted at how human beings are being treated.”

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