CatholicCare combining with courage for Refugee Week

At the international level, daily news seems increasingly defined by stories of religious intolerance, terror attacks and polarising refugee debate. But as CatholicCare Refugee Service and members of the Hunter Region prepare for the 2016 Refugee Week, it is clear local attitudes tell a very different story.

Held from Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June, Refugee Week is an annual celebration of the positive contribution made by refugees in Australia, and seeks to raise awareness about the ongoing issues which affect this marginalised group. Celebrated in Australia since 1986, the week coincides with World Refugee Day, which occurs on 20 June.

“Refugee Week is an important reminder that Australians need to work together to help those facing persecution receive the safety, dignity and wellbeing they deserve,” Director of CatholicCare, Ms Helga Smit, said.

Efforts by CatholicCare and the local community to participate in Refugee Week have highlighted this. Indeed, one such event is CatholicCare’s Multicultural Mass on Sunday 26 June, where attendees are encouraged to dress in their favourite national costume and listen to Fr Thomas Chackaral preside in Swahili.

“It is our aim to foster an inclusive community which celebrates diversity,” said Ms Smit.

Another event aimed at uniting the local community to promote refugee right, is the #3weeks2days Refugee Awareness Run, initiated by Lochinvar teacher Michael Eccleston. The run, from Aberdeen to Mayfield, spans five days and includes visits to five Catholic secondary schools.

A joint event of the diocese, CatholicCare Social Services and the Catholic Schools Office, Michael has indicated that his inspiration to instigate #3weeks2days began after volunteering at CatholicCare Refugee Service in Mayfield. During this time, Michael met John Sandy, and was motivated by John’s tale of walking three weeks and two days to make a single phone call to his wife, whom he had not seen in years.

CatholicCare Refuge Service is committed to providing education and support for refugees in the local region. The service works collaboratively with other service providers and has become an integral part of refugee settlement in the Australian community.

“While we acknowledge the importance of Refugee Week, our commitment to helping refugees needs to continue throughout the year,” said Ms Smit, “This includes facilitating programs to empower these new arrivals and ensure they benefit from health, education, religious and employment benefits in our community.”

In light of the second verse of the national anthem, the theme for 2015 to 2017 Refugee Week is, ‘With courage let us all combine’. The theme recognises the courage required by those leaving their country of origin in the wake of persecution for their identity or beliefs, and also the courage required by those who speak out against injustice.

To find out more about the #3weeks2days Refugee Awareness Run, or to donate to the cause now.   

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.