‘Racism is the opposite of encounter’

March 21, 2023 in Featured News, News

To mark International Day against Racism, (Tuesday 21 March 2023), JRS Ireland welcomed the Irish Bishops Conference recent statement challenging the rise of racism and xenophobia. In their Spring 2023 Statement the Irish Bishops said, “Racism is the opposite of encounter.  It seeks to divide, and to exploit anxieties by spreading fear, often through misinformation.  There is no place for racism in Ireland.”

The Irish Bishops 2023 Spring Statement » also drew attention to the reality that as the number of people seeking refuge increases, so do the demands and challenges on adequate housing provision and access to services in local communities.

“For too long, there has been a lack of urgency in the provision of housing for all in Ireland. To integrate refugees and people seeking asylum into our communities requires a focussed plan on the part of government and public bodies and an openness to work constructively with people locally so as to maximise opportunities for real encounter.  This must involve listening to the genuine concerns of local people and allaying their fears.” 

The Spring Statement issued by the Irish Bishops at the conclusion of three days of meetings with various groups, including the Irish Jesuit Refugee Service, also acknowledged the overwhelmingly positive response of people to our new arrivals seeking refuge or asylum as a result of war and persecution.  “In line with the values that derive from the Gospel and our strong Christian heritage, bishops thanked people for maintaining our reputation as a country of welcome and a safe space for those in need: ‘I was a stranger and you made me welcome’ (Matthew 25:35).”

Ireland has welcomed more than 75,000 Ukrainian refugees since the war started and now there are more than 20,000 persons seeking protection from other countries availing of State accommodation. In this context Mr. Eugene Quinn, National Director of JRS Ireland said, “The generosity of the people of Ireland, and of the Irish State, in responding to the unprecedented arrival of people from Ukraine and other countries across the world, needs to be acknowledged.  It is visible in every parish, town, community and city in the country.”

Irish Jesuit Bishop Alan McGuckian, Chair of the Irish Bishops Council for Justice and Peace endorsed a call to welcome refugees and asylum seekers seeking protection in Ireland: “As a people with a long history of emigration, particularly in the light of the famine, we know deeply within ourselves what it is like to have to leave one’s homeland and seek shelter and a better life.  May our response to people seeking refuge be as Pope Francis called on us in Fratelli Tutti: ‘to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate’.”

The Bishops Statement further stated, “Together, let us continue to build a culture of welcome, encounter, and integration everywhere in Ireland.  May we always see Jesus, who Himself was a refugee, in the face of others, especially those who seek shelter in our midst.  May our communities be spaces of welcome for the flourishing of all.”

Bishop McGuckian SJ added: “As Church, we too have answered that call. Over forty Religious Congregations have made a variety of accommodation offers.  There were also a number of good examples of offers and projects at parish and diocesan level.  Many of our teachers, thankfully, have been to the fore in welcoming and accommodating children into our school community.”

The Statement concluded: “A concerted effort should also be made to utilise incoming skills for the benefit of all, helping to promote, in the words of Pope Francis, ‘a culture of encounter and openness to others with mutual respect for diversity.’”