Archive for Migration

98,400 : 1

 

boat-reduced

 

The cold at night was as intense as the heat during the day. They travelled when they could, hoping they were headed in the right direction. Eventually another group of traffickers arrived and began to negotiate with them. Abraham was taken to one side and a gun was put to his head. The traffickers planned to use him as an example and were ready to kill him. If the other people in the group did not pay money to the traffickers, he would die. His friend volunteered to pay so they took his money and then shot him,

This article was published in January’s Messenger            98,400:1 Part 1

and this one is a follow up article in February’s edition   98,400:1 Part 2

 

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RTE’s A Living Word, Friday, the 20th January, 2017. ‘The Ultimate Migration’

 ‘The Ultimate Migration’

To listen to Alan’s reflection click here.

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St Catherine of Sienna was known for her bluntness. Once she said,

We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that this world is rotten because of silence.

The power-brokers of our world want us to be silent about migration and migrants. They don’t want any more photographs of children dying on beaches; they don’t want newsreel of people dead in trucks or containers. The slick operations now sinks migrant boats and takes people to camps where the local community remains unaware of the conditions of those who live there. And from those camps the complexity of the situation grows as the odour of illegality surrounds the surreptitious placing of people in country towns and villages.

In this year’s letter for World Day for Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis refuses to be silent and he consistently refers to the plight of all migrants and in particular this year to the plight of those who are young and unaccompanied;

 The condition of child migrants is worsened when their status is not regularized or when they are recruited by criminal organizations. In such cases they are usually sent to detention centres. It is not unusual for them to be arrested, and because they have no money to pay the fine or for the return journey, they can be incarcerated for long periods, exposed to various kinds of abuse and violence.

Pope Francis has chosen to keep the plight of migrants to the fore despite the inertia of many of his followers. Why? Well one reason I suppose is that his life is a celebration of the greatest migrations of all time which is that of the Son of God who entered directly into our human condition so that he can bring us all to the Father of love…about this wonderful mystery which is the ultimate and most cherished migration… there is little room for silence.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 20th January 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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RTE’s A Living Word, Thursday, the 19th January, 2017. ‘Kindness’

‘Kindness’

To listen, click here  -Thursday Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0119/846247-a-living-word-thursday-19-january-2017/?clipid=2377866#2377866

red-faces

We were standing at the edge of St. Peter’s Square in Rome just beside one of the homeless shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity. It was that time of the evening when those who were to spend the night in the shelter were gathering prior to its opening. Many of the accents were not Italian. They were mostly migrants. Their accents betraying origins in places such as Eastern Europe, Africa even parts of former Russia.

Unbeknownst to her one of the straps of a friends hand bag had slipped off her shoulder revealing her purse, passport and a few other items of value. One of those queuing to get into the shelter noticed what I also had noticed and he moved towards my friend. And yes you guessed right – he tapped her on the shoulder and said in his broken eastern European accent, ‘miss your bag is open and some-one could take something please close it’. He refused any reward and re-joined the queue.

On the 19th of April last year Pope Francis tweeted that ‘Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such’.

Where some have suggested that we find only evil and terror I fortunately, have mostly found goodness, humanity and forgiveness. The Christian vision for our world today rests not in labels or categories or even in theories or great homilies but in our mutual respect for one another as brothers and sisters who share a common home, a mutual respect that I saw so beautifully expressed  in the kindness of a homeless migrant in St. Peters Square in Rome. His simple actions opened my eyes to the true heart of the Church in the midst of its great columns and piazzas.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 19th Jan 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

 

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RTE’s A Living Word, Wednesday, 18th January, 2017. ‘Tying the Knot’

‘Tying the Knot’

To listen click here – Wednesday, Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0118/846248-a-living-word-wednesday-18-january-2017/?clipid=2377868#2377868

red-knot

‘Ah sure they’ve tied the knot’.  This is a phrase often associated with marriage in Ireland. However it has other origins. In parts of rural Ireland in the midst of a conversation someone might say…’I haven’t seen Micheál or Nora for a while’. The reply might be, ‘ah sure, they’ve tied the knot’. The expression referred to the silent emigration of the poorer members of the community from their home. To ‘tie the knot’ referred to the last act a person carried out before they left their dwelling. A person in the better off part of town might have had a suitcase into which they packed their belongings. In a poorer home a few pieces of clothing and a few small items of memorabilia were wound round one another and tied together with a piece of string. The knot was then tied on the all that the migrants owned and possessed.

The photographs and film clips of those arriving on the shores of the Southern Mediterranean show that even if they had a piece of string there’d be little to wrap up. I know one man who was returned from the UK to Rome under the Dublin Convention (Ironically enough) with nothing only the pyjamas that he wore.

I’ve been fortunate to meet many migrants whose wealth cannot be tied into tidy parcels because their wealth lies within them. Having lost everything, they see their world differently and they live with a profound sense of God’s providence. Like Abraham, Moses and many, many, others in scripture, their uncluttered lives reveal a passion for life that possesses every limb and sinew of their being.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 18th January 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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RTE’s, A Living Word, Tuesday, 17th January, 2017 ‘Ships of Hope’

‘Ships of Hope’

To listen, click here – Tuesday Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0117/846249-a-living-word-tuesday-17-january-2017/?clipid=2377871#2377871

red-boat

In his book Self-Portrait, John B. Keane talks about emigration. He tells of his journey across the Irish Sea and he puts into words what he observed happening all about him on the boat:

Underneath it all was the heart-breaking frightful anguish of separation. It would be a waste of time for me to launch into a description of what went on. A person had to be part of it to feel it.

A person had to be part of it to feel it. It is so easy to separate ourselves from the plight of those who are people before they are refugees, asylum seekers or migrants. Today many travel in boats that are laden with their fellow human beings, clinging to one another in sometimes silent and more times chaotic desperation.

Is there much difference, other than time, between the words of our own John B. Keane that we have just heard and those of the Somali poet Warsan Shire:

 

you have to understand

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

I think that those who make a migratory journey, whether that journey is from West Kerry to Camden or from Aleppo to Ballaghadreen, that they hope for one thing. They live with the hope that what they gain in moving to a new place will outweigh what they lose in leaving the place formerly known as home. This may be difficult for us to grasp, especially if we’ve never wanted for anything but as John B. says, ‘a person had to be part of it to feel it’.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 21st January, 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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A Living Word, Monday,16th January, 2017 ‘The Cittle’

‘The Cittle’

To listen, click here – Monday Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0116/846250-a-living-word-monday-16-january-2017/?clipid=2377873#2377873

red-ocean

She spoke with the best Queen’s English when she described her work with elderly Irish Emigrants in the Heuston Station area of London. Years spent in religious life and service to the community had given this sister an instinct that saw in these elderly Irish gents the need of for understanding, care and practical aid. She gave out bed-clothing, warm clothes, radios and whatever else brought a modicum of ease to their lives. She also knew their need to tell stories about home and their journey.

‘You came from the west of Ireland’ she recalled asking one elderly gentleman, ‘I did sister and I came with the cittle’. ‘Oh…so you like making your own tea!’ ‘Ah sister…no…you took me up wrong…the cittle was in the bottom of the boat and we were on the top!’

In the midst of their misunderstanding he was absolutely right. It wasn’t an emigrant ship that travelled from Dublin to Holyhead…it was a cattle ship. Emigrants were a secondary consideration. The ‘live’ cattle were loaded and the people followed.

This week we mark the week for Migrants and Refugees. It is an initiative of the Catholic Church and it is a worldwide program of awareness of behalf of those who journey in hope. This year Pope Francis asks us to pay attention to the plight of all migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and in particular to the plight of ‘unaccompanied minors’.

I don’t know who you bring to mind when you think of young people who travel alone to new locations. My mind and heart think of my uncle, who despaired at the lack of opportunity in Ireland in the mid 1950’s. Five           years previously he witnessed the death of his mother in a hospital bed. Like many others he followed the cattle to Dublin Port and walked up the gangway towards a new future. He had just turned fifteen years of age.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 16th January 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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A Reflection: The Silences, Refusals and Flights. Christmas 2016.

Christmas Carol Service

in

St. Laurence’s Grangegorman

with

The DIT Chamber Choir

Wednesday the 7th of December, 2016

carols

 

Reflection: The Silences, Refusals and Flights by Fr Alan Hilliard.

The family we ponder today in our songs and stories, be they of deeply religious significance to us, or just characters in a story, they can most certainly be characterised as migrants, refugees and displaced people. I was reading a book recently entitled Crisis and Migration[1]. The book was a collection of papers given at a conference in Malmo in Sweden on the Implications of the Eurozone Crisis for Perceptions, Politics and Policies of Migration. One line stood out in the book for me. This line suggested that researchers of forced migrations ought ‘to seize the silences, the refusals and the flight as something active’. If this is to be the case then the stores of this Middle Eastern family of two thousand years ago is indeed a very active story. We often resign it to nostalgia and tinsel but it is a seed-bed of activity not just for the past but for the present. Let us examine this story in terms of silence, refusal and flight.

 

The Silences; this family were on their way to their home place to register in a census that was undertaken by the Roman Empire. This was not an unusual act by Rome as the authorities needed to enumerate the resources in their new found territories. Naming was part of the owning and controlling. The graveyard in Lampedusa contains many graves that bear only numbers. Those laid in them have a name but they are unknown. Their name is silence as is the name of many others who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean these last few years. This silence is active unless we choose it not to be. Not knowing a name, not seeing a face makes our lives more comfortable. Our policies of securitisation are silencing the reality of those who drown. The less faces we see, the less names we know the more we are likely to be awakened to this tragedy.

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The Refusals. Yes there was no room at the inn we are told. They knocked, she was heavily pregnant but no one offered space. Let me read you a report that was read into the record of the Council of Europe by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced People in 2012;

‘Within a few hours of the first distress signal, a military helicopter hovered over the boat and provided water and biscuits and indicated to the passengers that it would return. It never did. The boat also encountered at least two fishing vessels, neither of which came to its assistance. The boat drifted for several days. With no water and food, people started to die. On about the tenth day of its voyage, when half the passengers were dead, a large aircraft carrier or helicopter-carrying vessel sailed near to the boat, close enough for the survivors to see the sailors on board looking at them with binoculars and taking photos. The boat eventually washed up on the Libya’s shores after 15 days at sea. The ten survivors were imprisoned, where one of them died from lack of medical care. Eventually nine survivors were released after which they fled the country’[2].

And there was no room for them at the inn.

 

The Flight. We are told that our main characters had to flee to Egypt. I met one young man in Lampedusa who took flight from his home country. He saw his best friend shot by traffickers in the Sahara. He lived in an immigration centre in Libya. He was used as a human shield in a boat with a couple of hundred others when Libya was attacked. When they came alongside an Egyptian boat the passengers lunged to one side as they cried for assistance. This caused the boat to sit up in the water casting a large portion of the passengers into the sea and to certain death. I asked him where he wanted to live, he replied ‘Where ever there is peace!’

If we seize the silences, the refusals and the flights and in turn silence them we damage our humanity and our world. Let the silences, the refusals and the flights of this story which we mark in word and song activate us on behalf of our brothers and sisters in need today.

[1]  Kullving, Linus (2014) A Crisis Nexus; The European Union, Security, and Articulations of Irregular Migration Post Arab Spring in Bevelander, P. and Peterson, B. eds. Crisis and Migration: The Implications of the Eurozone Crisis for Perceptions, Politics and Policies of Migration. Pg. 71.

[2] Ibid. pg. 49.

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