Bishop calls for church and State to co-operate on refugees

‘Anyone listening to their conscience now can’t but feel challenged by what we are witnessing’

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick. File photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill /The Irish Times.

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick. File photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill /The Irish Times.

 

The Catholic Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has called for the State, NGOs, the Catholic Church and other organisations to work together to help find a solution to the ongoing refugees crisis facing Europe.

Such a major interagency and organisation response is required if Ireland is to have a meaningful impact in aiding the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war, he said.

He also said that a wider strategic review needs to take place in relation to Ireland’s handling of asylum seekers generally, with facilities and conditions for refugees falling way below acceptable standards.

“Anyone listening to their conscience now can’t but feel challenged by what we are witnessing these days, weeks and months on our television screens and other social media networks. Last month alone, according to reports, a record 107,500 migrants crossed the European borders.

“The word ‘migrant’ could as easily be replaced by ‘refugee’ as over 60 per cent have come from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan, nations in the grip of war and religious persecution. In all reality we are probably looking at over 70 per cent of people crossing into Europe eligible for asylum,” he said.

He continued that “regardless, these people are seeking refuge for one reason or another; they are people in tremendous need and would not have set out on the hazardous journey unless there was an element of desperation about their situation.”

He said that “as Bishop I find myself asking what is my response or our response as a diocese? I can’t but think of the heroic women and men of past generations in religious orders who set up projects to feed, teach and care for the poorest of the poor in our society.

“They responded to Jesus’s cry for help in their times. The time is on us now again to have such courage as we all have a role to play, locally and nationally in response to what is truly a tragic and shocking crisis.”

In Ireland “we need to look at ourselves first and what we are doing and, for one, we certainly need to explore what more we can do as a diocese. I would certainly be willing to play our part in a government led interagency forum, which I believe is a necessity right now so that we can all pool our resources and find the best and quickest way forward for a collective response,” he said.

“As well as tackling the current migrant crisis, we also have to acknowledge the need to address the plight of the asylum seekers in our midst already today,” he said.

He had “driven up to some of these centres and I am anything but reassured as to their suitability, as premises and locations. We’ve all heard of some dramatic circumstances of life in these centres, of families under dreadful pressures, new babies being born, marriages breaking up, of a sense of hopelessness.

“Surely we can do more than this to welcome people to our country, not least people who have escaped horrific and life-threatening circumstances at home.”