Turkey welcomes the stranger

THROUGHOUT his Pontificate, His Holiness Pope Francis
has repeatedly expressed his concern for the lamentable situation of many migrants and refugees fleeing from war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty. In his 2018 message on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Holy Father opened with the Biblical passage which reads: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:34).”

“Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43),” the Pope added. “The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future.  This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience—from departure through journey to arrival and return.  This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.”

In many countries around the world, the Church has indeed taken responsibility for looking after the stranger and thus grasped the opportunity to have that encounter with Jesus Christ. This is particularly true of the Church in countries that border war-torn Syria. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and has uprooted millions since it began in 2011. Refugees have often faced deadly journeys in search of a safe haven and children—who make up more than half of the Syrian refugees in the Middle East—have unfortunately been witnesses to much violence, have lost their homes and loved ones and haven’t been to school for many years. While non-Governmental organisations have provided camps, many of them are often overcrowded and lack basic necessities such as water, shelter and food.

Christian refugees from Syria have, naturally, gravitated towards Churches and monasteries in the likes of Mardin and Midyat in neighbouring Turkey for help and they—along with local Christian families in the area—have been attempting to meet their needs. However, many of the refugees are still in urgent need of money to survive and prosper in their new homeland. To this end, Missio Scotland and our partners in the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), have been supporting the refugees in a number of ways. For those refugees who have remained in Syria, but migrated to some of its bigger cities such as Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, we have been working with partner organisation the Jesuit Refugee Services of the Middle East and North Africa (JRS MENA), to provide them with food and equipment
such as tarpaulins and hygiene kits as well as health, psychological and educational support. For those who have fled to the likes of Turkey (left), the PMS have been involved in raising funds to support those parishes that are helping to house the refugees.

By supporting Missio Scotland and our partners in the PMS, you too can respond to the call to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves, wherever they may be.