Chris Bird was a volunteer at Youth Ministry Team in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle as part of the Step into the Gap programme. Here he reflects on his first experience of campaigning and marching with CAFOD to show his support for welcoming refugees.
As our group of CAFOD representatives walked around the corner of what seemed to be just another generic grey building in London, in front of us opened up a flood of people and noise.
Thousands of people marching, chanting, singing, playing drums and holding placards. The atmosphere of humdrum London had changed into an energized, passionate movement.
What surprised me most was the diversity in the crowd, our group of mixed-aged CAFOD supporters with placards, immediately dispersed into the plethora of people of different backgrounds, age, race, class, faith and no faith. Yet all these people were here for one reason, to be part of a voice standing in solidarity welcoming refugees. It was quite something to behold.
Before joining the refugee march, my first ever, we had an ecumenical service in St James’ Roman Catholic Church.
One of the most powerful moments for me during the service was when a lady called Victoire gave some of her testimony of what it was like being a refugee from Togo. She talked about how she had left her country and fled to England, a country where she didn’t even know the language.
Watch the refugee march service on Facebook, including Victorie’s testimony.
What struck me about her, and what I would like to honour in all refugees, was her sheer courage and bravery; they leave everything behind, even family, and I saw that courage in Victoire.
I found in my heart that I wanted to respond to the bravery she showed and stand side by side walking with her and other refugees just like her. I had an opportunity to do the closest thing to that that very day, as I marched with the thousands of others, saying we wanted to welcome refugees.
This September, world leaders meet at two crucial summits to discuss the refugee crisis. As Catholics, the theme of refugees very much hits home. Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt as refugees and I know I want my country to be a country where we say there is enough room at the inn.
I will be lobbying my MP or even the Prime Minister to show our government and the world that we care about refugees. To live in a country which says welcome to refugees, our family in a different part of the world.