By Ann Marie Foley - 18 September, 2019
Some of those who come to Ireland have escaped from very dangerous situations, including religious persecution. On top of the trauma of losing their homes, jobs and often their families, they now face the challenge of being strangers in Ireland – Bishop Leahy.
Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick has stated that racism and intolerance should have no place in Irish society.
At a special centenary Mass for the Salesians on 15 September 2019 the Bishop said: “In a rapidly changing Ireland, we all have to work together to respect everyone.”
During his homily the Bishop of Limerick added: “That means a complete avoidance of the use of offence language. It means building of relationships at local level so that everyone can feel welcome wherever we gather. Racism, intolerance and sectarianism should have no place in Ireland today.”
Celebrating Mass in Our Lady Help of Christians church in Milford, Limerick, for the centenary of the Salesians in Ireland, Bishop Leahy said that we should strive to live by the example of the Salesians – people of joy who welcomed others.
He continued by referring to the Summer General Meeting of the Bishops of Ireland when they expressed concern about the rising number of incidents of racism and xenophobia on social media, in quiet conversations, or open verbal onslaughts, sometimes by those who consider themselves “faithful Christians”.
“As the bishops stated … following their meeting, we’ve always to remember that some of those who come to Ireland have escaped from very dangerous situations, including religious persecution,” he said.
On top of the trauma of losing their homes, jobs and often their families, they face the challenge of being strangers in Ireland. They have to start again without a network, in a place where the language, the education system, customs and culture are quite different.
“How many Irish emigrants experienced that in various parts of the world?” the Bishop asked.
He urged people to welcome others to our Irish shores. Bishop Leahy said, “How we speak of them is important. To denigrate others is cheap. To build them up is noble. To be loose with our tongue is like spreading a fire. And that is never good.”
The Bishop spoke out in a week when there were protests in Oughterard about the possible opening of a direct provision centre there.
First there was a meeting in the Galway town and a few days later a march by locals. At the meeting there was talk that a closed hotel could be turned into accommodation for asylum seekers.
Protesters said they were against “inhumane direct provision centres” and that Oughterard does not have the infrastructure to cater for the needs of people seeking international protection. They also complained that the Department of Justice is not providing enough information about their plans for a direct provision centre for the town.