Reflection - Celebrate Christmas with the refuges
Port Moresby, PNG, 25 December 2018 -- “God sent his Son, born of a woman, … so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4). Christmas is here again with its sentiments of hope, joy, love and peace. From across the different corners of the globe loved ones and friends travel the miles to be united with family and celebrate the birth of Christ. Over the past few weeks our flights have increased and so have the boats and busses. All making sure that they are with friends and family at this important time of the year to recall, cherish and celebrate memories down the decades.
While the air is filled with joy, the atmosphere has sentiments of pain. At some point, in every home loved ones can no longer gather. There are vacant chairs, empty arms and aching hearts. For some the grief is fresh, for other the pain is of a loss suffering long ago. Some grieve the absence of parents or loved ones. Others of events that have left deep scars.
15thDecember, 2017, I met the first two refuges who had been whisked away from Manus Island and sent to the Correctional Facility at Bomana. The past year has been a constant interaction with refuges from Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Syria and a number of other countries. Thankfully some are now resettled, but the majority are in Papua New Guinea.
The Panel Discussion, entitled Manus Refuges brought together government, church, students, refuges and Papua New Guineans in an open discussion at the Catholic Bishops Conference, Port Moresby. Bp Bernard Unabali, Bishop of Bougainville gave a powerful intervention and suggested the Christmas deadline. The refuges have spent their 6thChristmas in Papua New Guinea. I looked forward with hope. However, the promised meetings with the Prime Minister and the Australian High Commissioner never materialized. They have been kept busy with the proceedings of APEC and the distribution of the assets. The offices are closed and they have now gone home for their holidays, while over 400 refuges struggle to gain access to health and services that are due.
Pope Francis is reminding us to reach out to the refuges. Fr Angel has given us several reminders to reach the last, the lost and the least. Their stories speak of no land, no identity, not home, no family.
We gain strength from the words of scripture. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2). This same Christ will “give light to those who sit in darkness … and guide our feet to the way of peace”, (Lk 1:78-79).
May the Christ child who has come with open arms, open the doors of our hearts, touch the minds of the ones who are in power decide and set our brothers free. May we all have Peace.