Great Generation: Carrying the flame of hope with refugees

Eleanor at Flame

Eleanor Margetts was part of the CAFOD team of young volunteers at Flame. Here she describes how young people learnt about the plight of refugees and were inspired to take action. 

Eleanor volunteering at Flame
Eleanor volunteering at Flame.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being a part of CAFOD’s volunteer team at Flame, the Catholic youth gathering by CYMFed at Wembley Arena. I had never been to Flame before, so it was very exciting to attend such an inspiring event. I was amazed, not only at the enthusiasm of all the young people in attendance, but at the wonderful messages of hope and solidarity shared by all of the speakers. The striking presence of the boat, a small vessel used to transport refugees from Turkey to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013, on the stage of Wembley Arena set the tone for the event as one both of a celebration of Christian faith and one that really aimed to challenge people to put that faith into action by striving for justice.

Take the Flame challenge today – write a message of hope to refugees

Watching the on stage input at Flame.
Watching the on stage input at Flame.

I was impressed with how the theme of “welcoming the stranger” permeated the event, particularly in the afternoon slots from CAFOD. The afternoon began with a very powerful drama by RISE Theatre entitled “Moving People” which very aptly highlighted the problems created by war and human trafficking. Although only a few minutes long, it created a solemn and prayerful atmosphere which led to the hard-hitting themes of the afternoon. It really helped to emotionally engage the audience (me included!) in reflecting on the plight of people all around the world who are being forced to leave their homes. Ordinary people like me and you, who suddenly experience their lives being turned upside down.

Leah speaking at Flame 2017
Ryan and Leah at Flame 2017

Sarah from the CAFOD youth Team then took to the stage to interview Leah and Ryan, two young volunteers who had the incredible experience to visit Lebanon to deliver messages of hope as a part of the 10,000 Reasons to Hope challenge. They talked about how they delivered hand-written messages from people in the UK to refugees in Lebanon, and it was incredible to hear how much even a small gesture of love can have an effect on people’s lives.

Watch the film about Leah and Ryan In Lebanon

The CAFOD presence on the Flame stage culminated in us hearing wise words from Fr Augusto Zampini, an Argentinean priest and theological advisor for CAFOD. I loved the way that this segment combined the need for social justice with the cries of the poor and the cries of the earth. Fr Augusto echoed the teachings of Pope Francis that the Church responds to the cry of those in need with a universal love. It was incredible how he made the connection between love for our planet and love for humanity; he highlighted the vital need to stand up for God’s “exploited and mistreated” creation and how we, as Christians, have the moral responsibility to engage in these issues. He poignantly said that “if you want to follow Jesus, trying to follow his style is not an option” – powerfully challenging all people in the arena to embrace their roles as Christians to transform the world.

Watch MC Bea’s message to Flame participants about putting faith into action

Fr Augusto on stage at Flame
Fr Augusto asks us to listen to the ‘cry of the poor and the cry of the earth.’

Environmental and social justice issues are very close to my heart, so I was very pleased by how strongly Fr Augusto challenged the audience to adopt an “integral” sense of love; that as Christians, it is imperative that we love others and that we love creation, just like St Francis of Assisi did. He said that in order to be a good disciple, we must be taken outside of ourselves, to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit into an expanded sense of love. He called on everyone “to listen to the cry arising from our hearts, from our inner selves; this cry that demands justice and change”.

The audience responded enthusiastically to this challenge with thunderous cheering! It was a truly uplifting moment, and I felt like a part of a Church that is ready to listen to the cries of the poor and of the earth, and to change the world!

As seen on-stage at Flame 2017! Moving people is a short play by RISE Theatre about people forced from their homes:

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