JPIC Links 2016 -17; to set our hearts on fire


By Sister Gillian Price FC

In Evangeliium Gaudium Pope Francis said that, “Messengers of the joy of the Gospel are men and women who stand at the crossroads of life and experience the frontiers, welcome outcasts, so that their lives may be filled with the liberating message of the Gospel’. We at JPIC Links consider that this statement could be our Mission statement.

In 22-24 April 2016 over 40 people gathered for our conference at High Leigh Conference centre, entitled, ‘Reconciling Mercy and Justice’ the weekend was facilitated by Dr Mary Grey. During the weekend we explored ‘Becoming mystical communities’ – What are killing systems of the moment? Becoming communities of prophecy – What should be the priorities for a prophetic community? Mercy in the Christian tradition – Mercy is precisely for those who do not deserve it: Laudato Si – When our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one (#92) and Non violence – When one in three refugees in the world is Palestinian how are we challenged by Jesus’ way of non-violence.

Throughout the weekend members presented ‘signs of hope’ together with a moving reflection on their symbol.  This brought to the room the diverse work Justice and Peace members are involved in.  The symbols were added to a visual focus around which our Eucharist was celebrated which celebrated Pope Francis’ words from Laudato Si’, ‘When our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one’ 

On 2nd October 47 Anglican and Catholic religious, associates and third order members gathered at Notre Dame de France refugee centre for the JPIC Links Linking Day, ‘Only friends who haven’t yet met’. In the morning Nicolette Busuttii from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) spoke about ‘the further raft of policy changes by the UK government which have made it even tougher for refugees’.  She appealed for contributions to help their resources go further and support their outreach work.  Some ways she mentioned were– with friendship, by speaking their language, by hosting, by writing to people in detention (Pen pal scheme), by visiting those in detention, by organising a toiletries collection, in your parish, school etc (JRS give out 15,000 bottles a year), by donating and by prayer.  In the afternoon we heard from Scott Albrecht from the Catholic Worker farm in Hertfordshire which provides accommodation, food, English lessons, counselling and other services for 21 destitute female asylum seekers and their children.

Many religious present shared how their communities are already supporting refugees and asylum seekers and others were inspired to continue to act on what they had heard. eg Sisters have been involved in working with refugee families in Blackpool, Liverpool and Manchester. One Congregation is working with Syrian refugees in Blackpool, distributing vouchers and goods at Christmas and using Christian Unity week in Liverpool to engage with the theme of Solidarity with Refugees through enabling Syrian and DRC families to share their story.  Religious are seizing every opportunity such as Christian Unity week, Churches together, Justice and Peace groups, youth groups and Interfaith and ecumenical groups to make known and address the issues in practical ways. Others have lobbied senior civil servants from Westminster on the failure of the benefits system.  One sister commented, “Were it not for all the voluntary sector involvements in addressing food poverty and other aspects of social deprivation the situation would be far worse”.

Religious continue to be passionate, committed people who together with our Associates and Third order members continue to work in partnership with others to influence political decisions that will impact on the vulnerable people in our world. During the course of the year our members have continued to meet with women and men at the frontiers of existence and have continued to work in partnership with them to build effective programmes. We have raised issues in the Catholic, Local and National press as well as International online forums.  Members have been involved in lobbying, letter writing, demonstrations, article writing and actions on a range of issues in the UK and elsewhere, dealing with health, (including TB, polio, neglected tropical diseases, vaccines and universal health coverage): cuts to the NHS, the arms trade, undernutrition, disability, workers’ rights and education for all. JPIC Links members are working with migrants in the hotel and catering industry, and migrant domestic workers in private households as well as with prisoners. Our members are involved in a variety of initiatives to protect the environment and halt climate change. We have been involved with campaigns to safeguard UK aid and continue to inform ourselves and others about the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Trafficking in Human Beings is now one of the biggest businesses in the world, second only to the Arms Trade.  At present there is an estimated 21 million people living in slavery in the world. Every year 1 million children are trafficked. 80% of those trafficked are women and girls, mainly for the sex industry. Women religious all over the world are leading the fight against this awful crime.

Members of Links are also involved in this fight. In London 18 religious congregations are members of TRAC (Trafficking, Raising Awareness and Campaigning), meeting about every 6-8 weeks in Chigwell. They have given talks to schools, parish groups, J&P groups etc and have had post card campaigns to raise awareness of the issue.

On a European level Renate (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation) have a membership of 24 countries. There is a Core group and a Working Board. One of our JPIC Links members represents the UK on the board and took part in a training session in Rome last November. While there they attended an audience with Pope Francis who has spoken several times about the evils of trafficking.

At present religious are campaigning to end the demand which fuels the supply of trafficked persons. The original Nordic Model which decriminalises the women in prostitution but criminalises the buyers of sex has been extended to Iceland, Norway, France, and Northern Ireland and only in the last few weeks in the Republic of Ireland. They would like to see this here in England, Wales and Scotland. It is a long fight but as Mao said “the march of 1000 miles begins with one step” and we are proud that religious are involved with this initiative.

Future JPIC Links events include:

  • AGM and Conference,  24 – 26 March 2017.  ‘Half the sky – Holding up and holding on’ facilitated by Tina Beattie (High Leigh Conference Centre).
  • Linking Day, 7th October 2017, St Aloysius Church Hall, Phoenix Road, Euston exploring issues around war, the just war theory and the arms trade.
  • AGM and Conference, 13 – 15 April 2018 speaker TBA (High Leigh Conference Centre).
  • Please see COR web site for further details – all are welcome

In his homily on February 2nd 2017 for the ‘World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life’ Pope Francis said, “We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire”.   At JPIC Links we value the times when we can get together and share how we are carrying on these dreams. Through JPIC Links we re-kindle the sparks of the flames that set our hearts afire.