Washington DC, June 1, 2011 — Some of the most forgotten and the most vulnerable people in the world are those migrants held in detention facilities pending deportation. These forgotten people are dealt with in various ways by different governments, but often with the same tragic and deplorable consequences.
Boat people seeking asylum in Australia are first brought to Christmas Island, just 220 miles south of Indonesia but nearly 1,000 miles from the Australian mainland. Many of these boat people have no one to trust but God.
Fr. Sacha Bermudez-Goldman S.J., the former Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Australia and now Social Delegate for the Australian Province, has urged the Australian public to place itself in the shoes of asylum seekers and try to imagine and understand their plight. Fr. Sacha recalls:
'During one of the masses we celebrated together, several of the men — mostly Sri Lankan Catholics — took out their wallets and showed me photos of their children and then asked me to pray for them. Some could not hold back the tears as I held the photos in my hands and recited the prayers. There was so much emotion in the room. Earlier we had prayed for those who had been lost at sea, for those who had not made it. At the end of the mass, one-by-one first, and then in groups, all of them came and knelt before me and asked for a blessing.’
Asylum seekers don't leave their homes because they want to, but they often have to escape from their homes to avoid persecution. They place their lives, their hopes and desires of their families in the hands of God.
'As I placed my hands on their shoulders and prayed for them, I was struck by their deep faith: they had placed all their trust in God — there was no-one else to trust — and they truly believed that God held them in His hands and would answer their prayers.'
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, 2 behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,
saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star 3 at its rising and have come to do him homage."
When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:
'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.