(Washington, D.C.) September 6, 2015 — Pope Francis today urged every "parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family" of refugees fleeing violence, Radio Vatican reports.
The Pope noted that "Before the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing death in conflict and hunger and are on a journey of hope, the Gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned."
A round up of recent information from Jesuit Refugee Service follows.
Europe: Civil society acts to welcome refugees
Five friends in Hungary set up the Migszol (Migrant Solidarity) group in Szeged near the Hungarian border. People soon rallied to provide food and clothing to new arrivals. The Facebook group now has over 2,500 members and a core group of volunteers provide round-the-clock support to hundreds of migrants.
Volunteers in Greece have been distributing dry clothes, food and soup to refugees from day one and some even help to organise refugee camps. Students in Germany have set up a smart online system for people to help accommodate asylum seekers, much like the long-standing Welcome Project that has been run by JRS France.
And besides help with immediate reception, JRS continues to run language and vocational training courses from Portugal to Romania in order to help refugees integrate. In London, JRS has been involved in a project that helps women asylum seekers learn to ride a bike. Seemingly a simple skill, it not only boosts confidence but facilitates freedom of movement.
With so many local initiatives to help refugees, it is to be hoped that Europe's leaders will follow suit, stop the hand-wringing and take positive action. Read all of this story here.
Europe: Yes, we can prevent refugee deaths
With no alternatives, people fleeing war and oppression try to reach safety in Europe at any cost. All too often they die. Stopping such tragedies is entirely achievable. Through cooperation and good governance European states may open legal and safe channels for refugees to reach Europe. Now is the time for a European humanitarian visa plan.
This is not only a moral problem, but a political one. All European countries and societies need to work together and develop a coordinated response that protects life," says Jesuit Refugee Service Europe director Jean-Marie Carrière.
"The only way to prevent more deaths is to implement measures that would allow refugees to travel safely and legally to Europe," says JRS Europe advocacy officer Olga Siebert. JRS Europe calls for safe and legal access to asylum to be at the top of their agenda.
"Borders are killing people," says Carrière. "Building more fences will only result in more deaths. To conquer our fear we must extend the hand of friendship to people in need. Together with policymakers we can learn from local initiatives of welcome and build good European governance on refugees," he concludes. Read all of this story here.
United States: Take Action on the European Refugee Crisis
Please take a moment today to urge the U.S. government to demonstrate leadership at this critical time. Only by rallying the voices of citizens can we demonstrate that we will not stand by while this crisis unfolds before our eyes. We must ensure that refugees are offered the dignity, compassion and opportunity they deserve. Urge the U.S. to act quickly to:
• Re-double efforts to address the root causes of the conflict through robust political and diplomatic efforts across the region.
• Increase current levels of humanitarian aid, including life-saving resources, and invest in education programs for refugees.
• Increase U.S. refugee admission numbers to provide a safe haven for those in need.