I feel fortunate to be able to have a choice. If I want to settle down and create a home for myself, I can. If I want to pack up and go somewhere, leave everything behind, I can go of my own free will, and not because I fear for my safety or I’m fleeing persecution.
Three years ago, a boat set sail from the African continent heading for Europe. As the boat was nearing land, it caught fire and capsized. There were more than 300 souls aboard the small vessel, only about 100 survived. People on the small island of Lampedusa, Italy went to their aid. They helped save as many refugees as they could.
One Sicilian carpenter named Francesco Tuccio wanted to offer a symbol of hope to the refugees. He walked along the shore and collected the boat wreckage. He used the wood to craft the Lampedusa Cross. This has become a symbol of respect, love and hope. Francesco Tuccio crafted a small Lampedusa Cross for each refugee.
The remaining wood from the boat wreck was used to craft larger Lampedusa Crosses. These are being used on pilgrimages and in worship services across Europe. A beautiful sign of love, respect and hope, has been forged out of destruction and heartache.
Refugees don’t have the choice to set off or settle down, they can only choose to survive.
Pope Francis said: “We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees… are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”
I’m not physically part of the journey and the struggles refugees have experienced. CAFOD and its partners work on the ground with refugees in Greece, providing shelter and food. CAFOD are supporting the Lampedusa Cross on its journey across England and Wales. At the end of a pilgrimage, people are being encouraged to write messages of hope for refugees, which CAFOD will share with refugees. You’ll probably never meet the person who reads your message hope, yet a special bound will be created through this loving act of solidarity.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said: “More than ever the world stands in need of mercy to one another…Wars are producing thousands of refugees. Europe has thousands of refugees pleading for food and shelter.”
CAFOD and its partners are working diligently to support refugees. However, the question of set off or settle down isn’t only a global question, happening in countries and places many of us may have never been to.
As Martin Luther King Jr said: “Injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere.”
The UK faces the increasing injustice of homelessness. What if you are forced out of your home and onto the streets? You could be moving around between shelters and centres on a daily basis or become completely stuck in a rut. The choice isn’t to set off or settle down, the choice is to survive. Again, this isn’t a decision you are likely to make, this is a choice made for you.
There are well established homeless shelters across cities in the UK, and indeed the world. In Manchester, Cornerstone (part of Caritas Salford) is commemorating its 25th year anniversary. Cornerstone is changing lives and giving hope to the people who walk into the centre.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said: “Hope is the stream that runs through the desert of pessimism.”
Shelters are becoming increasingly needed. Yet I still have hope, that one day, everyone will have the choice whether to set off or settle down.
I have the choice whether to set off on a journey, or to settle down and establish roots. I have a feeling that many of you reading this will also have that choice. I ask that you pray for those who don’t have a choice.