SINGAPORE – "To be a companion of Christ, we must love the poor," said Archbishop Nicholas Chia, "Our neighbour is everyone around us… but the church calls us particularly to serve the rejected, the impoverished, and the marginalized."

Archbishop Chia was speaking in reference to refugees who are "the poorest of the poor" at the World Refugee Day Mass held on Jun 25 at Church of Christ the King. The theme this year was "Will You Walk With Me?"

The parish of Christ The King was chosen to host this year’s World Refugee Day Mass due to its support of the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) through the adoption of 600 Shan refugees at the Thailand-Burma border in the past two years.

Archbishop Chia called the priests of the parish – Fathers Peter Koh, Stephen Yim, and Robertus Sarwiseso – a "leading example" in their dedication to lead groups of parishioners to visit the Shan refugees.

In addition to regular visits, the parishioners have also undertaken various projects to improve the lives of the refugees in the refugee camp, such as improvement of their living conditions, provision of housing, and the supply of weaving looms so as to give them the dignity of work.

Archbishop Chia reminded the 300-strong congregation who had gathered to pray for the refugees that "help is not a one-time thing, but a matter of continuous help".

A message from Jesuit Bernard Hyacinth Arputhasamy, the Regional Director of JRS, Asia Pacific was also read out, inviting Catholics to "create a true civilization of peace" by addressing "the root causes that force people to run away from their homes and countries for safety".

After the Mass, members of the congregation joined JRS volunteers for fellowship in the parish canteen. They also viewed an exhibition set up by JRS on the plight of the refugees from Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, the Bhutanese in Nepal, and the Myanmese refugees in Thailand and Malaysia. Free copies of the JRS monthly newsletter Servir were also given out.

Parish priest Father Peter Koh told CatholicNews that the adoption of the Shan refugees was part of the parish mission statement "One in Love and Service". Parishioners will be making their fifth trip to the refugee camp later this year. By Daniel Tay

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