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The Problem of Refugees and Displace People in Europe

 

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Declaration of the Marist European Conference

23/11/2015: General House

The leadership of the Marist European Conference which met in Athens (Greece) from 26th - 28th October decided to issue this communication in the form of a public declaration which expresses the concern, solidarity and commitment of all European Marists, Brothers and Laity, to the problem of displaced persons and refugees in Europe.

We show this firstly in our strong condemnation of the causes of this displacement, in particular war and the other forms of discrimination and injustice which force people, very often complete families, to leave their homeland in search of a safer place to live.

And, at the same time, we make public our commitment to welcome these people into our European Marist Provinces, into our communities, into the educational and social projects which make up the Marist pres-ence in almost 20 European countries.

In this way we respond to the call of Pope Francis and his invitation to religious congregations and commu-nities to be the first to welcome them, and at the same time we support the call of our Superior General, Brother Emili Turú, that all European Marists show solidarity and generosity as they welcome and support these refugees.

The Marists of Europe, spread over 5 Provinces – Compostela, West-Central Europe, Ibérica, L’Hermitage and Mediterránea, participate not on our own, but jointly with the institutions of the Catholic Church, state and local charities, and other support organisations who have expertise in this field.

Among these initiatives, we draw particular attention to two of them:

  • We offer our full support to the Marist Communi-ty of Aleppo (Syria) where a group of Brothers and Lay Marists (the “Blue Marists”) courageous-ly remain in a situation of great risk, involving themselves in humanitarian, educational and aid activities, particularly with young children.
  • Equally, we applaud and support the recently created “Fratelli Project” with Marist and De La Salle Brothers opening a Community of Brothers and Lay People who work in Lebanon with child-ren and young people.

Each of the five Provinces is also developing concrete actions of help and support in the face of such a se-rious humanitarian problem. Among these we emphasise:

 

1.  Province of Compostela

Our Province has responded to the calls for care of refugees, with measures such as:

  • Incorporate the idea in all our Community Projects. Eight communities are already taking steps to wel-come displaced people or refugees families, working closely with Church organisations.
  • Other forms of financial and joint support which have been put forward by the Communities and the Province themselves.
  • Offers of refuge by some schools, and also schooling for displaced children in all our establishments.
  • Put at the disposal of “Caritas of Santiago de Compostela” our Meeting House in Roxos, for possible use as a reception centre for refugee families.

 

2.  Province of West-Central Europe

  • The Marist Community of Recklinghausen in Germany welcomed two Syrian women and their children in December 2014, and have been supporting these families since then in every way.
  • The town of Furth in Germany recently bought a Marist property in the town. They are using what used to be the old noviciate to house 18 young Afghans who attend the Marist School.
  • Brother Pol Grégoire in Malmedy, Belgium, has worked for many years with immigrants and refugees and continues to offer them support. He is looking to find future lodgings for some refugees.
  • In Habay-la-Vieille, Belgium, Brother Robert Thunus has contacted various civil and religious agen-cies, and has offered the house of the former chaplain, based in our property, for the use of a refugee family.

 

3.  Province of Ibérica

The Province has taken the following actions, among others, to show its concern for refugees and immi-grants.

  • At the start of the 2015 session, raising awareness of the problem with the Superiors, relying on the support of the Sisters of the Adoration and their experience in dealing with immigrant prostitutes.
  • Encourage all communities, so that they include in all their projects concrete proposals to involve the Brothers in voluntary work with immigrants.
  • Offer the hostel at the residence in Lardero to the Department of Social Services of Logroño for use as a reception centre for immigrants

 

4.  Province of L’Hermitage

Following the call from Pope Francis and Brother Emili in favour of Syrian refugees, the Province has:

  • Sent a letter to all communities giving the criteria for receiving immigrants into the communities of the Province.
  • We have recommended that they contact the diocesan services dealing with this problem. All deci-sions in this area must be communicated to Brother Provincial.
  • The Province of L’Hermitage will give financial help to organisations involved with Syrian refugees. This help will come from the Solidarity Fund of the Province.
  • In Greece, our property in Syri will be at the disposal of the Minister for Refugees. Contact has already been made with the Minister’s secretary and steps are being taken to receive refugees.

 

5.  Province of Mediterránea                          

Once the Provincial Pastoral Commission had proposed to the Provincial Council that we become involved in the situation regarding the immigrants and refugees in Europe, we have undertaken several actions:

  • We help the Blue Marists in Aleppo, maintaining and supporting the community and its mission.
  • In the school at Champville, in Lebanon, there are Syrian refugees. In Faraya and Jbail, also in Leba-non, they have welcomed the relatives of the Brothers, and Syrian refugees recommended by the Blue Marists.
  • In Spain, we have put our empty apartments at the disposal of Caritas. Caritas will begin making use of our house in Huelva.
  • The criterion for the Province and the Brothers is to collaborate with Church initiatives (Caritas, Con-fer,…).

At the conclusion of this message, on behalf of the Marist Lay People and Brothers in Europe, we wish to state explicitly our desire to continue planting seeds of life for the future, and to do it specially, following our charism, through the education and evangelization of children and young people and other services in communion with the Church.

We want to be the face of tenderness and compassion for children and young people, particularly with so many refugees and displaced people, just as our Founder Saint Marcellin Champagnat would have wished, and as proposed by Pope Francis for the upcoming Year of Mercy.

And we will carry on working, on the eve of our Bicentenary as a congregation, to build a Marian Church and a more just society, hand in hand always with our Good Mother: she will teach us to live in family, fraternity and love, always open to the Risen Christ.

United in his Spirit and dreaming of a new beginning full of life,
On behalf of,

Brothers Provincial
Brendan Geary, Antonio Giménez de Bagüés, Ambrosio Alonso,
Maurice Berquet and Óscar Martín,
with all members of the Marist European Conference,
and all European Marists.

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