Churches Together in Britain and Ireland held an Advent Vigil for Refugees on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at St Margaret’s Westminster. The feast day also marks the beginning of the Year of Mercy. Several hundred people attended during the day for a vigil which included hymns, readings, prayers, testimonies and reflections.
Fr Dermot Preston SJ, Jesuit Provincial, was one of the speakers invited to share reflections at the all- day event. Fr Preston led a meditation on the story from Genesis 18 of Abraham offering radical hospitality to the Lord. Speaking also of his own experience while on pilgrimage in Spain he recalled a woman who brought him bread. He reflected on the difference between this personal connection made by the woman welcoming a hungry pilgrim, and the effect of cartoons published in the tabloid press which describe refugees as sub-human, thereby attempting to legitimise their rejection and persecution. Fr Preston ended by quoting Pope Francis’ hopes for the Year of Mercy, that it will enable us to find “the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God”.
Other speakers included Louise Zanré, Director of Jesuit Refugee Service, refugees and groups who support them, as well as church leaders of many denominations and Muslim and Jewish clergy.