French Catholics Take In Refugee Familes Seeking a ‘Normal Life’

French police prevent refugees from reaching France at the Calais crossing.

"Bernadette Salvi is getting used to offering halal options at dinner, now that she and her husband, Frédéric Salvi, have welcomed a young family of Muslim asylum seekers from Kosovo into their home. The Salvis are one of dozens of households in the sleepy French city of Besançon offering shelter to refugees who have fled their countries in search of safe haven in Europe. Arta Adami and Irfan Adami, both 25, arrived last month with their 1-year-old daughter, Elsira, at the doorstep of the Salvis’ wooden chalet — the third family they have stayed with since May.

The local effort is part of a national Catholic network that connects homeless asylum seekers with families willing to take them in — an example of efforts already answering Pope Francis’ recent call for Europe’s religious communities to help lodge the hundreds of thousands of people escaping war, repression and poverty. Grass-roots initiatives like this one, religious and otherwise, are galvanizing private citizens throughout the continent to take small yet concrete actions as Europe faces the greatest refugee crisis it has seen since World War II.

The Salvis have offered their homestay as part of an initiative run by Jacques Jouët, a local friar working to find housing for asylum seekers living in the city’s parks — a situation he called “intolerable.”

The homestays are temporary, stretching from two weeks to several months, Jouët said, because “it’s not necessarily easy to bring immigrants into your home, into your private life” and most families can’t commit to an indefinite open door. The Adamis will stay with the Salvis, a retired couple in their 60s, at least until the end of September.

Frédéric Salvi said his experiences as the child of an Italian father who immigrated to France in the interwar years allow him to easily sympathize with the challenges faced by the Adamis. “I remain persuaded that there’s a place for everybody,” he said. “We have different lives, but we’re all human. No one has more of a right to live than another.”

Jouët emphasized that while these actions seem small as hundreds of thousands of refugees are entering Europe, which has received more than 500,000 asylum applications this year as of August, they still carry significant symbolic weight. “We don’t have political power. We don’t have financial power,” he said. “But maybe we can decide to create a consciousness, to open hearts that are closed and remove fear.”

Full article written by Maggy Donaldson at Al Jazeera America.

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French Catholics Take In Refugee Familes Seeking a ‘Normal Life’
French Catholics Take In Refugee Familes Seeking a ‘Normal Life’
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