Today was a travel day for us. Our Catholic Relief Services Global Fellows delegation moved from Athens, Greece to Belgrade, Serbia. It is a trip of about 700 miles and it took our flight about an hour and forty minutes. The refugees we met at the port yesterday are most likely near Macedonia and still have 350-400 miles to go to catch up with us. When they reach Belgrade they will have traveled over 1,600 miles and have about 1,000 more to reach Germany. The differences in our travel are numerous. We have passports while many refugees have no passport or papers because they fled their homes or the papers were destroyed in the war. We are traveling on a humanitarian mission, the refugees are fleeing from war and terror. We are now in a hotel, they are on the road in buses. We arranged our travel through a travel agency, the refugees can fall prey to smugglers who promise to move them at a huge cost. The differences are stark. It makes one reflect on why they can’t have the same freedom of movement that we do. It is an economic and geopolitical problem that we cannot resolve.
What we can do is strive to make their journey easier, more humane and less dangerous. That is the work the American Catholic Church is doing through CRS and Caritas. The trip is long as you can see from the map. Who among us wouldn’t leave a country where our children’s lives and our lives were threatened by war and ISIS terror? What must it feel like to arrive in Greece with such a dangerous trip behind you and a long and unknown trip ahead? How grateful would you feel for the security of a few nights in a bed and a few hot meals and a shower? Tomorrow I will share with you the story of a young brave refugee mother whose life and the lives of her six children are consumed with those feelings. I hope you will check back for her story. Her name is Hiat, and she may be the most courageous woman I have ever met.