A Droplet in the Ocean of Need

When Pope Francis called on Catholic parishes and religious houses throughout Europe to provide temporary homes for refugees, (see here), we had already decided that our circumstances would make that difficult. Our community is small, rural, and I have an illness that makes me vulnerable to infection. We had decided, therefore, that we would give the equivalent of one month’s living expenses to an appropriate charity to provide relief to a refugee family. That may sound small, even a bit of a cop-out, but it will be something, and, importantly, it will not be easy for us to achieve. We won’t be giving from a comfortable excess. I mention it only because a number of people have asked what they can do and are anxious that they may not be doing enough. Like us, they are not really able to open their homes to others or give vast sums, but how do they decide what to give? The cheque sent to CAFOD or OXFAM or wherever can seem an abstraction, a more-or-less arbitrary figure calculated according to some strange arithmetic of our own and bearing little relationship to our daily lives. Here, by contrast, is something concrete, something that will cost. You may think it a good idea, or you may not. It is, at least, a suggestion.

Our giving will be only a droplet in the ocean of need but it will be accompanied by prayer; and prayer is the most powerful thing we can contribute. Prayer opens hearts (and borders, and wallets), ends animosities and brings about peace and reconciliation. When people talk about ‘solving the refugee crisis’ they often overlook an important point. The true solution is not opening our borders, giving temporary accommodation or granting asylum. It is solving the complex web of hatreds and opposing ideologies that caused the crisis in the first place. No one imagines that will take place any time soon, but unless we pray, and pray perseveringly, the process will never begin. Even if we are unable to give anything at all in material terms, let us be generous in giving prayer.

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3 thoughts on “A Droplet in the Ocean of Need”

  1. Thank you for an insightful post.

    You are quite right that resolving the issues that have caused the conflicts is or should be the priority. None of the millions of displaced people wanted to leave their home country, they’ve been forced to leave for self preservation and peace of mind.

    Somehow, I’m finding the lack of compassion of our government, putting national (political) interest before need to be quite disgraceful. Sure, we can’t take them all, but the example of the open hearted approach of Germany puts us to shame. I read that as the German population is ageing and having a falling birth rate, that they need the younger workers to run their industries and to look after the elderly population in the future. That’s a mean spirited analysis of the German open hearted approach.

    Prayers and supporting those working in the field to alleviate need seems to me to be quite appropriate and the response that I can make. We don’t have the space to house a whole family, but could certainly house one or two individuals. We shall have to see whether the need arises. Anything done will be through parish and diocese, because coordination seems to me to be quite important, doing the governments job for them perhaps. But the Christian response is to welcome the stranger, on the greatest authority of all – Jesus Christ.

  2. A great suggestion. I always find the issue of how much to donate difficult. Do I apply a formula? Do I penalise my family because I want to give a certain amount of my (our) money? It is hard.
    I know (teaching in a school) that my community will not be able to house individuals but that does not mean we will do nothing. Prayer, fundraising and awareness raising are the order of the day.

    Anything but the shrug of the shoulders and comment – “What good can we do in the face of so much suffering.” To give in to despair and do nothing but wring hands would be dreadful indeed.

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