Plight of refugees illustrated by hundreds of shoes outside Westminster cathedral

An art installation of hundreds of shoes at Westminster Cathedral illustrates Catholic action
in support of the Pope’s refugee campaign Photo: Thom Flint/CAFOD

More than 40,000 people have walked miles, inspired by the Pope’s message of welcome to the stranger

Hundreds of shoes were displayed outside Westminster Cathedral in support of Pope Francis’s refugee campaign in an art illustration to highlight the plight of refugees. Many of the shoes in the display had been directly sourced from refugees in Calais.

The shoe display was part of the Share the Journey campaign led by Catholic charities, CAFOD and Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), which is urging world leaders and governments to take positive action to promote the rights of refugees through an ambitious United Nations Global Compact to be signed on 18 September 2018.

More than 40,000 CAFOD and CSAN supporters, inspired by Pope Francis’s?message to welcome the stranger and in a gesture of solidarity with refugees, have walked 100,000 miles: the equivalent of over four times the distance around the world.

The campaign is in response to Pope Francis’s call for world leaders to agree two UN ‘Global Compacts’ on how to assist migrants and refugees, most of whom live in poverty in the developing world. The shoe display took place ahead of next month’s UN General Assembly in New York at which the first of these compacts – focused on refugees – will be presented. The Share the Journey campaign urges world leaders to protect the dignity of refugees, support countries hosting refugees, facilitate family reunification, and tackle the root causes of forced displacement.

Daniel Hale, Head of Campaigns, CAFOD, said: “We are calling on the UK Government to demand that all world leaders place human dignity at the heart of the global compact agreement on refugees signed at next month’s United Nations General Assembly.  It is important to remember that most people on the move are from poor countries, and most seek safety in nearby poor countries or within their own country’s borders.” He added that the “tens of thousands who have taken part in the Share the Journey campaign illustrate an overwhelming response to Pope Francis’s call for us to embrace those forced from their homes by persecution and poverty”.

Bernie Slater, member of the CAFOD Action team (Oldham, Rochdale and Mossley) said: “I hope with all my heart, that the ‘powers that be’ are moved by the deep concern of the thousands of us who have walked to ‘share the journey’ with all the displaced peoples of the world. That they take seriously the need to change the way we treat those who find themselves bereft of all security and comfort. That when they meet in September there will be a new heart and a new plan for us all to work together, to protect the vulnerable in a much more caring and effective way when crisis befalls them.”

The CAFOD Action team – Oldham, Rochdale and Mossley, of which Bernie is a member, organised a Share the Journey walk around Alexandra Park Oldham on 1st July. Altogether 109 people participated in the walk of solidarity, walking a total of 171 miles.

Emily Mcindoe, a CAFOD volunteer who has done three walks for the Share the Journey campaign, said:  “I decided to support CAFOD’s share the journey campaign because I felt that the refugee crisis is something that affects us all, and so many people are in need of our support & solidarity. The message of the campaign is simple and powerful, and the discussions that the campaign and walks have raised have been both thought provoking and moving. It’s so important that we all come together to support our brothers and sisters in need, especially in these times of division and hatred. Share the journey is an important and wonderful and easy way of making our voices heard, and doing our bit as Catholics”

The Tablet – 17 August 2018 | by Edward Kendall