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Prayers, pleas and hope for refugees and migrants

02:11 AM June 25, 2016

“When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35, CEB)

Unfortunately, not everyone will heed this prophetic challenge. There will still be those who will close their doors to those in need of sanctuaries.

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With the observance of World Refugee Day last June 20, we are reiterating our solidarity with the least of our sisters and brothers who have been forced to leave their homelands and seek safety outside their nation’s borders—those affected by wars, civil strife or environmental destruction, or persecution due to their religious, ethnic or political affiliations.

We remember:

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The Rohingya refugees who for so long lived in the margins of Myanmar (Burma) society and neighboring nations, facing political persecution and denied of citizenship by their own country. Our hearts are torn by the fact that they are among the most persecuted minorities in the world and, probably, the most forgotten ones, as the United Nations admits. The past year, we have been witnesses to how countries in Southeast Asia refused them entry even as they begged to land on these countries’ shores. They are practically living in boats as no one would receive them. And they can’t do anything as, one by one, they die. We join the rest of the world in a plea for more welcoming gestures from the nations in the region.

We also remember the people from Africa and the Middle East who have braved the Mediterranean Sea to escape war, persecution and human rights abuses in their countries. We joined them in mourning for the Syrian child Aylan Kurdi whose lifeless body was washed ashore. He became the face of refugees, traveling in cramped boats, risking life and limb in their desperation to find a safer place. We continue to pray that the European states will grant them legal and safe passage.

Their tragic story, and so many others untold, compel our desire to work for a world that is more welcoming to refugees. But more than that, our Christian faith compels us to go deeper and question why there are refugees in the first place.

We affirm the stand of the Churches Witnessing with Migrants, an international platform for migrant advocates, churches and ecumenical bodies, in which the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is involved: This current massive dispersal, displacement and dislocation of people have clear, although complex, historical roots in injustices brought about by slavery, colonialism and racism, even as neoliberal globalization exhibits contemporary forms of economic exploitation, political oppression, cultural subjugation, and intervention and occupation by enriched and powerful countries that we must confront.

We believe that refugees are like us, created in the image of God. Human rights are their rights, and the human dignity we are vested with is theirs, too, inalienable and indivisible.

The challenge to be good Samaritans goes beyond simply welcoming them. We must look into systems and circumstances that drove them away from their homelands. We are working with the vision that sooner than later, we shall have a world where everyone is in their place of choice, peacefully and safely developing themselves and productively contributing to nation-building.

—REV. REX RB REYES JR., general secretary, JUSTICE RAOUL V. VICTORINO, chair, NCCP

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TAGS: Migrants, Refugees, rohingya, World Refugee Day
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