I work as Justice Co-ordinator for the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI). Working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is one of the main areas of justice for AMRI. Irish people are undocumented in other parts of the world, particularly in the US, so for St. Patrick’s Day we wanted to collaborate with Migrant Rights Centre, who were hosting an event where the undocumented in Ireland were sending greetings to the undocumented in the US. We wanted to highlight the need for changes in our own legislation to protect the rights of undocumented people and to look for the introduction of a regularisation scheme to allow undocumented migrants the chance to come forward and regularise their situation.
This photo was taken at that event which was held on the 16th March, 2017. We had 50 or 60 people outside the Central Bank in Dublin and the atmosphere was good – even though it was absolutely freezing cold! The people who came wanted to express that solidarity with the undocumented people, some of whom spoke on the evening.
There are between 20,000 and 26,000 people undocumented in our own country. We are very good at looking for rights for our own undocumented people aboard, but we are not as good at recognising how unjustly we treat undocumented people in our own country. We tend to work for the rights of our little Irish community in the US, rather than proclaiming solidarity with all the people who are looking for pathways for citizenship throughout our world. So this event was about changing the Irish mindset to not just think of ourselves. When we think back to our own history, remembering that our people had to leave their homeland in search of a better life, we should be able to demonstrate greater solidarity with different groups of people who find themselves in the same situation as we have been, both in our past and today.
This work moves you. I’m from Donegal and there are many from my own county who were and are undocumented people in the US. One of them made the news recently as he is going to be deported right now from Trump’s America. So, of course, it moves me; members of my family and people I know have been in that situation. I think all people have a right to move around the world in search of a better life.
The whole premise to any kind of faith context is love of neighbour and seeking justice. You cannot have faith without justice. Faith can only have a vibrancy when it’s lived out in the actions. This demands that we have an explicit option for the poor, for those on the margins of society. It means that we must participate in changing the structures to ensure that all people have full participation and equal rights. Otherwise as it says in scripture “faith without works is dead.”
The biblical message is about loving your neighbour as yourself. This has to be done with concrete actions. It is not something that falls out of the sky; it’s not something abstract. It has to be something that is there as an ideal, but also as something that we do in solidarity with those who are looking for the same thing – to love their neighbour. Especially those who are on the margins, the people who are cast aside and who do not have full participation in whatever society they are in. Whether it is women, people from different religions, sexual persuasion, or race. Faith is not just something that is reserved for inside a church door
Sr Sheila Curran, Justice Co-ordinator, AMRI