The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

A community of welcome and integration

Ayman and his family as St Addai's Chaldean Catholic church | Photo: Joanna Viernes

A blog by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand's Joanna Viernes on 25 May 2018

In this year’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis encourages us to respond to every stranger in need of a home who knocks at our door.

A range of groups from across the Catholic community in NZ have said yes to responding to the call of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating into communities.

CANZ has been coordinating this partnership which stemmed from EOHSJ’s visits to refugee camps in Jordan. The EOHSJ has established an ongoing relationship with those communities and with the St. Addai’s Chaldean Catholic community in Auckland which was founded in 2003. Fr Douglas Al-Bazi is chaplain to the families in Auckland and Hamilton, many of whom came to NZ as refugees or asylum seekers after being displaced by the armed conflict in Iraq.

A parishioner and member of St. Addai’s church council, Ayman Franso, came to NZ in 1996 under the skilled migrant scheme. “While starting a new life in New Zealand was exciting, it also proved to be challenging. Language was a big hurdle.”

The Chaldean community has previously assisted 50 refugee families to resettle in NZ and will be providing much of the settlement support for the CORS pilot. Other Catholic church communities and agencies will be assisting the community in Hamilton.

It is the hope that the lessons learnt from this pilot project will enable the Catholic Church in New Zealand to decide how to continue to engage with a community sponsorship scheme. Taking responsibility and action from the grass-root level is how we can respond to the call of being people that welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

Ayman said: “We keep telling our story to the kids to ensure that we emphasise how lucky they are to be living in beautiful New Zealand – that we now call home.”

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