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Welcoming an Iraqi family in Poligny

For many months, a team in Poligny - a town in the Jura, a department in the east of France where a community of Daughters of the Holy Spirit is located - has been meticulously preparing for the arrival in France of a refugee family. This family of Iraqi Christians, refugees in Lebanon for more than 7 years, was expected under the umbrella of the Humanitarian Corridors. (The Humanitarian Corridors were born in Italy in 2015, in reaction to the increasing number of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. In addition to Italy, France, Belgium and the Principality of Andorra have set up such operations. They are legal and safe migration channels using the existing law and allowing the most vulnerable to make use of them).

The family arrived at Roissy airport, France, on Saturday 17th October: Roni, the father, Hamsa, the mother and Elia their 10-year-old son were among the last families welcomed in France under the protocol signed in March 2017 between the French State and the Catholic and Protestant Churches. This arrival marked the end of this protocol which allowed 500 people to be welcomed in France and the beginning of a new one which will allow us to welcome 300 people.

The family was welcomed by a delegation from Jura of 4 people, including a translator.The morning and early afternoon of Sunday 18th October were devoted to visiting several symbolic places in Paris: the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre with a mass celebrated for the 101st anniversary of the dedication of this basilica, the Trocadéro with the Human Rights forecourt, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées.

At the end of the day on Sunday, the family discovered Poligny's flat, which was now going to be theirs. This flat, made available by the city, was prepared with great care by a team. Due to the health measures linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, the family was confined there for a week. After this period, the various administrative procedures were started, as well as the first meetings with the members of the collective who had prepared their arrival. The setting up of the French language learning programme, of which I am a member, will thus be able to begin. These are key moments for the integration and autonomy of this family, which we hope to achieve within the next 18 months.

And because this welcome and accompaniment are only the simple implementation of the brother's service, one can only be touched by Roni's wish for the team of volunteers: "I only hope that we will live up to your expectations". Let him be certain of that! Their arrival is already for all a sign of a lived fraternity, the urgency of which Pope Francis has just reminded us in his last encyclical "Fratelli tutti" (All Brothers).

Michelle Guyon, DHS. Based on an article by Bertane Poitou, in charge of communication for the parish of Poligny. Published on 28 october 2020.

Filles du Saint-Esprit 15 bd. Sebastopol 35101 Rennes Cedex 2 France

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