World news nearly every day of the year reports on the plight of migrants and refugees in one or more places around the world, braving cold, heat, rain and dangerous terrain.  As more people flee violence, insecurity and the effects of climate change, the number forcibly displaced now exceeds 84 million globally, according to new data released on Thursday 11 November 2021 by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Large numbers are displaced internally as a result of natural disasters or civil wars but very many also flee their country for a variety of reasons, especially fear for their safety and grinding poverty at home, leading them to search for a better life elsewhere. A high percentage of these people, often as individuals, due to having been forced to split up their families are from countries in Africa.  Throughout the ages peoples have moved by choice or been displaced, taken prisoner and taken into exile. Pope Francis has always been very conscious of migration and his 2021 message is entitled “TOWARDS AN EVER WIDER “WE”.  He writes, I also make this appeal to all men and women, for the sake of renewing the human family, building together a future of justice and peace, and ensuring that no one is left behind. This is the ideal of the new Jerusalem (cf. Is 60; Rev 21:3), where all peoples are united in peace and harmony, celebrating the goodness of God and the wonders of creation.  To achieve this ideal, we must make every effort to break down the walls that separate us and build bridges that foster a culture of encounter. Today’s migration movements offer an opportunity for us to overcome our fears and let ourselves be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts. I invite all men and women in our world to make good use of the gifts that the Lord has entrusted to us to preserve and make his creation even more beautiful.   How can we and our families give our gift to this worthy cause?  

This short family story below could be situated in South Africa, even at this time.  



Joshua had run away from home when he was eleven years old. Now he was 13 ½ and one of the most streetwise of the streetkids, but somehow he was lucky that he had never got involved in crime. He had  been asked quite a few times to smoke, sniff or try one of the drugs that the older boys used. But for almost a year he had watched his mother taking her drugs and after she had died he knew he wasn’t going to do that.  That was also when he had run away because their shack was really no home any more. He had gone to live on the street and soon made friends. In winter it was very cold and they would go to a shelter for a meal, a bath and sometimes to sleep. In summer they sometimes slept out if it wasn’t raining. But this wasn’t what he could call an ideal life. No ways did he want to carry on living like that. He’d become more and more fed up with the way his life wasn’t going anywhere.

One rainy night in the middle of summer a group of the boys was sheltering from the rain under the bridge near the bus station.  Some of them were already asleep and the others were sitting talking, telling stories about how their life had been before, and sharing their dreams for a better future.  Joshua looked up and saw some people coming towards them.  His first thought was to go up and beg. He had already put on his begging face, but as they came nearer, although they looked clean he could see they were almost in a worse state than he was.  The man looked so worried and the pregnant lady so tired. She was very beautiful but looked so terribly worried that instead of asking them for money he found himself asking if he could help them instead.

“Thank you, young man,” the man said to him. “You can see that my wife is going to have her baby very soon. We have just got off the bus from up north and don’t know our way around here at all.  We’ve been looking around but can’t find any place where we can rest.  I am so worried about her.  Where can we go? Oh please!”

Joshua felt quite like a man, not just like a small boy.  “As it happens,” he said grandly, “I have just the place for you.” He led the way slowly and carefully through the dark streets keeping a watchful eye on the lady.  But it wasn’t very far.  When the shelter was in sight he pointed it out to them and ran ahead to warn Fr Joe.  This shelter didn’t usually take adults, or people having babies but he knew this was different. When he got there and rang the bell he got quite a shock. The door opened and instead of the usual Fr Joe, there was an old man in a red coat with a long white beard. 

“What are you doing here Fr Christmas?” Joshua couldn’t help but blurt out.  “I’m here to welcome some special guests. In fact I had to be here to receive a great gift, one that I will share with many others,“ he answered and with the widest smile and the lowest bow he led the young couple into the house. “Make yourself at home,” he said. “I know you have come from far but Joshua here has brought you to just the right place. Tonight our Saviour will really be born and welcomed here. We are honoured and these young friends will truly be your bodyguards. Today, and who knows, maybe also in years to come.”      TR Christmas 2007 FAMILY WEEKLY 21 DECEMBER 2021