London, Monday 19/06/2023 – At the beginning of Refugee Week UK, up to a hundred people joined our prayer vigil outside the Home Office, to name and remember those who have died trying to seek sanctuary in Europe and the UK.
Just a week ago the deadliest refugee shipwreck this year off the Greek coast of Malakata left 78 people drowned and several hundreds of people missing. At the vigil we prayed for those who have died, because every life is precious to God, and we prayed especially for the families, friends and communities left behind.
At last Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Francis recalled “I reiterate my prayer for those who have lost their lives, and I implore that everything possible always be done to prevent similar tragedies.” Since 2014, the International Organisation on Migration’ Missing Migrants Project has recorded over 20,000 deaths and disappearances on the Mediterranean Sea routes. And according to UNITED, who started recording in 1993 – 52.760 people died as a result of our hostile border and migration policies.
One of the banners at the vigil read “One person drowning is a tragedy, but thousands of people is a policy” but maybe it is rather an absolute lack of coherent and humane policies. The only way preventing more deaths is creating safe passages and safe routes.
Archbishop Justin Welby last week wrote in a response to the Illegal Migration Bill “we will not abandon the most vulnerable” and “we need a new approach that loves mercy and does justice” The Archbishop has in the past pointed out that legal and safe routes are needed without delay. Bishop McAleenan, who brought the reflection at the vigil, said that the Christian faith places an emphasis on the equal human dignity of everyone whatever their origin, not depending on whether that person is a citizen, a migrant, a refugee or an asylum seeker and that safe passages and routes are one of the principles in providing that dignity.
The monthly prayer vigil brings together parishioners and clergy from Anglican and Catholic churches across London.
For Refugee Week we were joined by the music band Ooberfuse, Kurdish refugee folk singer Newroz Oremari , Bishop McAleenan (the lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees in the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference), and students from Newman Catholic College in Brent.
Participating groups include: The London Catholic Worker, Diocese of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, London Churches Refugee Fund, Seeking Sanctuary, Society of the Sisters of Bethany and others.
The monthly prayer vigil takes place on the third Monday of every month from 12:30 to 1:30pm in front of the Home Office in London , 2 Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF.
Bro Johannes Maertens
London Catholic Worker
Photo credit: Newman Catholic College Brent, London.