Friday, September 29, 2017
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
MIAMI | Tariq Javeed and his family were among the nearly 85,000 refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2016. Catholics from Pakistan, they fled their home in Gojra in June 2012, after a series of anti-Christian riots that started in 2009. A number of people were killed. Their village and church were burned down.
Javeed and his family — wife Leashone, daughters Alisha and Mishma, and son Joshua — fled to a refugee camp in Thailand. After applying through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration assigned them to Church World Services — a Lutheran version of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services — that eventually resettled them in Miami.
Their journey took four years. They arrived in May 2016. Luckily, their apartment was near the Missionaries of Charity shelter. They started attending Mass there and made some connections. In August of last year, their children started classes at St. Mary Cathedral School.
Only the oldest, Alisha, now 14 and a ninth grader at Msgr. Edward Pace High School, had gone to school before, and then only for a year. During their time in the refugee camp, their mother helped them keep up with their studies.
Alisha and Mishma, 12, now a seventh-grader at St. Mary’s, made their first Communion last year. Joshua, 7, is in first grade.
“They have very good grades. Excellent behavior,” said Father Christopher Marino, rector of the cathedral.
“Thank God they quickly picked up English,” said Leashone Tariq, who works in the school’s cafeteria. Her husband, a homeopathic doctor in his homeland, walks to his job in the laundry of Camillus House.
On Saturdays, the entire family attends 7 a.m. Mass at the Missionaries of Charity shelter and then all of them get to work: helping with the cooking and dishwashing, serving meals to the homeless, packing containers of donated items for the Missionaries in Haiti.
The Tariqs’ journey is not unique. In fact, 22 million refugees in camps across the globe are desperate to repeat it. And Pope Francis wants the world to remember them. So on Sept. 27, he launched the “Share the Journey” campaign in Rome by embracing a group of refugees.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski visited with the Tariq family in Miami that same day to launch the campaign in the archdiocese.
The goal of the worldwide, two-year campaign is to highlight the plight of about 65 million migrants and refugees worldwide — the largest number of displaced persons since the end of World War II. The campaign calls on Catholics, and all people of good will, to do “small gestures of solidarity” to draw attention to their plight.
“These [refugees] are pretty severely vetted,” said the archbishop, calling the Trump Administration’s recently announced cap on the number of refugees who will be admitted to the U.S. in 2018 — 45,000 — “a scandal.”
The U.S. bishops also expressed their disappointment Sept. 29 in a statement by Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the bishops’ conference Committee on Migration. He stressed that “this decision has very severe human consequences — people with faces, names, children and families are suffering.”
Before visiting the Tariq family, Archbishop Wenski stopped by the offices of Catholic Legal Services in downtown Miami and spent some time speaking with the clients there. Among them were several teens who had entered the country as unaccompanied minors. Catholic Legal Services is helping them prepare for their asylum interviews.
“Some children just make their way on buses,” said Kristie-Anne Padron, a supervising attorney at Catholic Legal Services. She said some of the ones they have represented in immigration court have been as young as four.
“They are doing the work of God,” the archbishop said of the attorneys, paralegals and accredited representatives of Catholic Legal Services, a total of 50 in three offices: Miami, Doral and Miramar.
“Here we have the best lawyers to help you obtain whatever you can,” the archbishop, speaking in Spanish, told a group of clients, most of them from Mexico and Honduras. “It’s not easy.”
“The journey of migrants is not just a journey of miles and distance,” said Randolph McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Legal Services. “It’s also a legal odyssey. And you,” he told his staff, “share their journey.”
• The Share the Journey campaign will last through September 2019. The social media hashtag is #ShareJourney, and the Gospel passage is, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
• In collaboration with Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops have designated the week of Oct. 7-13 as a week of prayer and action “to promote a culture of encounter to counter the culture of indifference,” in the words of Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
• Catholic Legal Services staff will be available for “Know Your Rights” presentations at any parish that requests them throughout the two-year campaign, but especially the week of Oct. 7-13. To request a session, contact Randy McGrorty at email@example.com.
• The U.S. bishops have put out a pamphlet, in English and Spanish, on what the Catholic faith teaches about “Welcoming the Refugee and Migrant.” More information and links to materials for implementing the campaign can be found at https://www.sharejourney.org.