Advocate – Serve – Accompany: Refugee Week

Sr Angela Murphy reflects on her ministry at the Jesuit Refugee Day Centre in Wapping. The Centre aims to provide a safe and welcoming space where a personal welcome and appreciation of each person is a priority. Refugee Week, celebrated from 18-24 June was marked by several special events.

“The past week has been a special one for Staff, Refugees and Volunteers at the Centre. It has given our refugee friends a chance to speak out and celebrate the many gifts they have to contribute to society. During the week they showed their appreciation at some events to celebrate Refugee Week and we went along to support them.

Wallace Museum: The Wallace Museum has one of the finest collections of French Art in Europe. The museum supports people who are refugees by training them to become Community Ambassador Tour Guides. Some of our friends from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) have become Guides. We availed of the expertise of our friends when we visited the museum. Each talk was given by a different member of the Community Ambassador Team from JRS. It was interesting to see through the eyes of the Guides the objects collected by Sir. Richard Wallace and to experience first-hand the contribution our friends are making to their new home.

Heythrop Conference: Refugee Stories, Changing the Narrative: This conference was a collaboration between Heythrop College and the Jesuit Refugee Service. It is a response to one of the aims of Refugee Week, “to spread the word and reshape the conversation.”
During the Conference three of our friends were given a slot called, Refugee stories: Changing the Narrative. We were delighted to hear Josie who stole the show, some were moved to tears as she shared her experiences.

JRS Gospel Choir: The Joy of the Gospel: A Gospel Choir Workshop. Following their huge debut success at Christmas, the JRS Refugee choir were back raising their voices and spirits on Saturday when we came together to sing, to learn and to share food. The Refugee Gospel Choir is one of the many activities JRS facilitates alongside the Day Centre. One of the choir members said “The first time I preformed I was nervous. I’m a good singer but not very confident. Before I would never put myself forward but now if there is a solo I will volunteer to give it a try. The choir has helped me a lot”. It provides a respite from the often uncertain lives of our refugee friends.

A visit to the British Red Cross: Some of our friends also attend the centre run by the British Red Cross. They had open house last Wednesday so a few of us paid a visit. We received a big welcome. Then we enjoyed looking at the art on display there created by our friends which was very interesting and colourful and which often told their stories.
The chef was busy preparing food and carving (yes, carving!) fruit; his display was wonderful, so creative. The women’s choir sang for us. When the food was ready we were invited to go outside into the sunshine where the food was served. A great day was had by all.

It has been a brilliant week which brought us together in a different way and hopefully has helped to change the narrative.

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