Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv. has met with a Syrian family who escaped their war-ravaged homeland and resettled in western Sydney, Catholic Outlook reports.
Bishop Vincent was greeted with a warm smile from the couple, John* and Rebecca.
Walking into their modest house the Bishop and other guests were invited as to sit. The accommodation is spotlessly clean and would be completely bare if it were not for a donated dining table, a couple of second-hand sofas and a small television, no bigger than an iPad, in the corner of the room.
Hanging with pride of place is a cross inscribed “Jesus” that interrupts the bare walls. Rebecca and John’s three children joined their parents at the dining table for some Middle Eastern hospitality, coffee and Rebecca’s traditional Syrian handmade cake.
As Bishop Vincent listened, the family shared their story. They are Syrian Catholics, one of the many thousands of families who have fled Syria, a country torn apart by a deadly civil war. Having escaped war-torn Vietnam as a teenager, Bishop Vincent can relate.
Whilst some may consider them fortunate, they still live with concern and worry of relatives and friends left behind. There are five million Syrians registered as refugees, more than the population of Melbourne. The numbers seeking refuge continues to rise as fighting intensifies in the country.
With just the clothes on their back, the family escaped Syria’s capital, Damascus, and found refuge in neighbouring Lebanon. With a reference and sponsor in Australia, they were granted refugee status under the federal government’s additional humanitarian intake specifically for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Though their English is broken, they are managing to navigate through the complexities of bureaucracy with the assistance of the Diocese of Parramatta Social Justice Office, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta and Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown and other support agencies.
*Names changed for privacy reasons
The refugee family who welcomed the Bishop with a smile (Catholic Outlook)