Christmas is a time for justice
People from all over the world piled into Farm Street Church for the annual advent service of Jesuit Refugee Service UK. Staff, volunteers, supporters and their refugee friends came together to hear readings in Mandarin and French and a host of favourite carols.
In his homily, Bishop Paul McAleenan reminded those present that Christmas was an important time to respond to cries for justice. JRS UK Director, Sarah Teather, looked back on some of the key achievements of the year, including the setting up of a new in-house legal team and coordinated activities and events offered by the JRS Wapping Day Centre which include art workshops and cookery sessions. Commenting on the service, Sarah said:
“We were thrilled to have a full Church, including many refugees, who led much of the service as readers and performers and exhibited their artwork at the reception afterwards. Christmas can be a lonely time for anyone who is separated from family. It is also a gruelling period for those who face hunger and street homelessness. In the weeks before Christmas we try to create space for community, joy and friendship alongside delicious festive meals and gifts of warm clothes. We rely on the help of volunteers and donors to make it possible to support refugee friends in this way.”
The JRS UK Drama Group presented a powerful and compelling piece in partnership with RISE Theatre that captured the interminable journeys of refugees: weary travellers waited expectantly for the next train only to find it had been cancelled with no further trains expected. Left frustrated with no easy path to take, a mysterious voice over a tannoy invited them on a train journey of a lifetime. Even in their waiting, we see the passengers joyful and full of hope - at one point, the actors standing together like something from a Titian altarpiece.
After the service, the joy from the church overflowed into the parish hall where the ground floor walls were decked with paintings of the JRS UK Art Exhibition. The artists exuberantly explaining the deeper meaning of their works that depicted a moving mixture of homelands, journeys, dreams and aspirations.