Throughout this Advent season, I have been reflecting a lot on migrants and the ways in which they are one of the most vulnerable populations. Simultaneously, I have also been thinking about the plight of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We have often failed to uphold migrants’, refugees’, and survivors’ of human trafficking rights while also failing to come alongside them in their fight for justice.
As the story is told in the Gospel of Matthew, after Mary gave birth to Jesus, their family had to flee Bethlehem and seek safety in Egypt because King Herod was planning to kill baby Jesus. In this situation, we have a family who is forced to flee their homeland for fear of persecution. This is where I began to draw a parallel in my reflection between the plight of the Holy Family, and the classic modern-day definition of a refugee. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a refugee is defined as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.” At the most basic level, there is no difference between then and now. So why is it then we are so easily able and excited to celebrate Christmas, but not welcome refugees with the same welcoming arms and listening ears?
I have been reminded that if I am going to call myself a Christian and celebrate in the birth of Jesus, then I am also called to fight for the protection of migrants’ and refugees’ rights, such as their right to be with their families, their right to not be held in detention centers, etc.
Additionally, January is the Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Continuing on into February, the church celebrates St. Jospehine Bakhita, the Patron Saint of Human Trafficking, on February 8. St. Jospehine’s story also calls us to reflect on how we treat survivors of human trafficking. Somewhere around February 1877, Josephine was kidnapped as a child, and she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles to a slave market. Throughout this journey, she was bought and sold at least twice; however, in the next 12 years, she was bought, sold, and given away over a dozen times. To put it more into perspective, she spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her name that was given to her at birth. After suffering brutal beatings for many years and being held in captivity, she was eventually freed and chose to pursue a call to Christ. She was welcomed into the Canossian Sisters, and went on to become a Sister herself. For the rest of her life, she gave glory and thanks to God as she told her story all throughout the world to spread awareness around human trafficking.
Similar to St. Jospehine, Talitha Kum is an organization led by consecrated women who live in solidarity with those who suffer the consequences of human trafficking. Their mission to end human trafficking is done through “collabortive initiatives focused around prevention, protection, social reintegration and rehabilitation of survivors, partnership and advocacy, promoting actions that affect the systemic causes.” As I was reading more on their website, I also came across this quote that I believe ties into Advent season, human trafficking awareness month, and the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita: “We accept the invitation to take the side of those who are discriminated against, exploited and victimized by modern slavery, breaking the silence, indifference and conformism that support human trafficking and all forms of commidifcation of life.” We too need to accept this invitation.
I will leave you with this quote that moved me and called me to sit in prayer: “If we could welcome the Holy Family to our parish and provide a place where Mary could give birth to Christ the child, shouldn’t we do the same in the name of Jesus to those who come to us for help?” What are you doing this Advent season when people come to you for help? In our everyday lives, we should have compassion and be ready to welcome and care for modern-day refugees, migrants, and survivors of human trafficking, the same way we prepare to welcome the birth of Jesus every Dec. 25 throughout the years. We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! You are in our prayers as we enter into the new year and accept the invitation to welcome and fight for the rights of migrants, refugees, and survivors of human trafficking.
Written by Allison Moser