President’s Letter | February 2021

Dear Friends And Colleagues

For those of us of the Christian tradition (especially Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans & Episcopalians) we have now entered the season of Lent in the approach to Easter. A time for reflection and contemplation, a time to search for a clear pattern and plan running through our lives. A time to walk with God.

We live in a shrinking world. Within minutes of it happening social media, the press, TV and radio bring graphic details of disasters from all around the world. We are instantly able to share the horrors, the highs and lows of what is happening with those who are suffering. Communications are so swift that great cities and small villages are like next-door neighbours. Since the growth of cities following the Industrial Revolution, a culture has developed where people live in one place, work in another, have their leisure all over the world and worship, if they do, in a religious community of their choice. Rarely do the people with whom they associate in each activity overlap.

As chaplains working in the airports of the world we see this only too well as we minister to the people who pass through the terminals. But this shrinking world also has an advantage for us. We are rapidly able to provide support and help to refugees arriving from war torn countries or counseling and an arm to lean on for grieving or distressed travelers, or just a friendly welcome to a happy holidaymaker. We can do this because of our ability to communicate quickly with each other. Without our rapid means of communication we would not know how much our prayers are needed. Our links to each other also allow us to share in each other’s lives and support each other through the good and bad times.

Speaking about rapid and efficient means of communication and support, several of us recently had some kind of adventure with a passenger who has been needing the help of 5 chaplains in 3 airports (CDG, AMS and HKG) plus numerous relatives, friends and friends of friends from Singapore, Amsterdam, Hongkong and Paris to help him fly back home to Hongkong after being hospitalised in France for psychiatric problems after his companion had died of COVID-19. He faced so many problems during his journey because of missing COVID tests or them not being sufficient of the translation of the result not being good enough. I believe he missed or was denied boarding on at least 4 flights, and in the middle of his nightmare journey as he was transmitting in

Amsterdam he had a stroke and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have no idea how he would have survived that without a friend in Singapore calling a hospital chaplain in Paris who then called me and without the global community we form and amazing dedications of Mark, Gerard and Marieke in AMS and our colleague John in HKG whom we had only recently met during our Online Conference in October. Plus of course, all the help of dedicated airline and airport staff. And all of this was made possible thanks to instant communication tools.

This poor man (who is now safely quarantining himself in a hotel in Hongkong with the friend who gracefully travelled with him from Amsterdam) embodies so many of the new situations and problems so many of the passengers face in our airports nowadays. But this story is also a testimony to the hope we as airport chaplains represent and sometime bring to life in this dark time. As Cap Kibbe from Nairobi was telling us in October: “Chaplains are the face of hope in crisis”!

We continue to hear about the effects of the COVID 19 and we pray that it will soon end. For many, the news of a vaccine is bringing hope that our lives can return to some semblance of normal.

The IACAC Board is continuing to meet on line each month and we ask for your prayers as we meet to consider the needs of the Association and work with our Nairobi Chaplain hosts to plan for our conference in October. Preparations are well in hand and at each meeting of the Board all aspects of the arrangements are discussed. At this time we are still not sure whether the conference will take the form of in person attendance or online as we did last year. It is likely to be a mixture of both, giving those unable to attend the opportunity to be present online.

The conference program has been provisionally finalised and will be available on our website very soon. Please give some thought to attending our annual conference in whatever format it takes place. The program content looks good and there is again the opportunity for chaplains to share their stories and learn from each other. Make sure you put the dates of the 17th – 22nd October for the conference in your diary. We are looking forward to seeing you either there in person or online. The dates for a possible post conference tour are 22nd – 26th October.

In the meantime, we are planning another online meeting in May or June. Another opportunity to gather electronically, share our stories, learn from one another and reflect on our mission. The details will soon be communicated.

It is always very pleasing to hear news from our chaplaincies around the world. Our secretary, Mary would love to hear from you if you have news share.

I would like to take this opportunity to send my warmest greetings to George Szalony whom, as you’ll see, is retiring from airport chaplaincy. George was our host chaplain for our Charlotte Conference in 2018. As member of our association and member of the board he always was a challenging voice encouraging us to improve the service to our members. Farewell George! You know you and Chris are always welcome to contact any of us when you have the opportunity to travel and pass through our airport!

Once again, the Board thanks you all for the work you and your team do in your chaplaincies. Your presence in and around the airport helps to give comfort and support to airport workers and travelers alike.

Pierre de Mareuil
Paris CDG

Holy Days for March

March – Lent Continues – Christianity

11thLaylat al-Miraj –Islam

11th Maha Shiva Ratri – Hinduism

20th New Ruz – Baha’l

28th Holy Week- Christianity

28th Shab e Barat (or Lailat al Bara’a) Islam

28th Pesach- Judaism

29th Holi – Hinduism

29th Lailat al Bara’ah – Islam

29th Hola Mohalla – Sikhism