By Vatican News
Pope Francis has dedicated the 106th World Migrant and Refugee Day, scheduled for 27 September, to the pastoral care of internally displaced people.
The Pope’s Message for the annual celebration is themed: “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee.” His reflections are inspired by the experience of Jesus as a child and his parents as displaced refugees.
“Sometimes in our enthusiasm to serve others, we fail to see the riches they possess,” said the Pope. “If we really want to promote the people to whom we offer assistance, we must involve them and let them be active participants in their own liberation.”
Losing everything, starting anew
The Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section has released the fifth in a series of videos ahead of this year’s celebrations. The latest video is entitled “To involve in order to promote.”
In the video, Father Noel narrates his experience of becoming an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) as a child and losing everything.
“Being an IDP means I lost everything,” he recounts. “We had to start over from the very beginning. And when I say ‘everything’, that means relationships, our livelihood, school, friendships… everything had to start over from the beginning.”
Father Noel recalls not having the same opportunities as other children because of poverty. While other children were playing, he had to work at a golf club, carrying golf bags to earn a living.
However, looking back, Fr. Noel notes that these tough experiences as a displaced person are a part of his vocation story, as his mother, unable to educate him due to poverty, put him in a boarding house near a Catholic Church. This, he says, was a good sign for him “on this vocation path to becoming a priest.”
Understanding drawn from experience
After his priestly ordination, Fr. Noel draws from his own experience, which enables him to better understand the situation of displaced persons – “more than others.”
“Being IDPs, they really need to hear a compliment, they really need understanding, especially from Church leaders,” he said, adding that when IDPs visit and the Church leaders are with them, they “are happy,” and “they feel safe.”