Pope Francis has spoken of a ‘culture of encounter’ as a common goal, encouraging people to be fearless in the ways they look beyond themselves to the needs of others, “Faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others,” he has said.
Christ is constantly reaching out to us. But an encounter only happens when that invitation is acknowledged and responded to. By encountering Christ, we can then encounter others. This means reaching out, building friendships beyond our circle and meeting people on the peripheries, the most poor and vulnerable, migrants and refugees.
While washing the feet of Muslim, Hindu and Christian refugees during Holy Thursday Mass, Pope Francis said, “We are children of the same God.” He has travelled to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Greek island of Lesvos and the USA-Mexico border, shining a spotlight on “the human tragedy” of forced migration.
Caritas wants to create opportunities for encounters to take place between migrants and local communities. By giving them a space to tell their stories, we want to make migrants’ voices heard. We want everyone with a migration experience to share it – from migrants themselves, to people who live in communities where migrants leave from, pass through or arrive and settle.
Caritas firmly believes that encounters not only contribute to changing the debate around migration, but also successfully break down fear, racism and xenophobia. We hope to lay the foundations for greater empathy on both sides.
We may not agree on much, but we can agree that some countries are more polarised than ever before.
The culture of encounter invites us to build relationships with others, to favour unity over division and reach across divides.
Anyone, anywhere in the world can be part of the culture of encounter.
Caritas’ Share the Journey campaign focuses on one simple action to build the culture of encounter: go out and meet a migrant or a refugee. They are human too.
See the other the person in front of you, ask them questions about themselves and then listen to what they say.
No special equipment is needed – just the time to share a story.
Get ready to be taken out of your comfort zone.
You may discover more about yourself than about other people. Be prepared!
Jesus repeatedly stopped and spent time with outsiders. Can we do the same?
To encounter another person is to experience the grace of the living God. Try it.