Vatican calls for 'tolerance, hope, healing and protection' for migrants

By staff writers
October 27, 2010

The world's fifteen million migrants deserve respect, welcome, dignity and social integration in their host countries, Vatican officials have declared.

They also condemned the mistreatment of asylum seekers and growing hostility towards them.

The messages came from a press conference on 26 October 2010, held to present the Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the ninety-seventh World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which is due to be celebrated on 16 January 2011.

Participating were Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and Fr Gabriele Bentoglio CS, under-secretary for the same body.

Archbishop Veglio outlined the ways in which relations established between migrants, as individuals and groups, and their host societies can be framed - from assimilation, ghettoisation and syncretism, through to different forms of cultural pluralism.

To these models "we may add 'social integration' accompanied by 'cultural synthesis'", said the archbishop. "This leads, on the one hand, to a dynamic process (the reciprocity of the exchange) and, on the other, to a form of social integration which presupposes participation to create and transform social relationships. .. This is the only process that can lead to successful multiculturalism, and only this process allows groups of immigrants to create a 'new culture', the beneficiary of which will be society as a whole".

"In the context of this presentation, we should recall that the United Nations declared 2010 as the 'International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures', ... with the aim of reiterating the idea of the pluralism of humanity and the interaction between cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue. Thus, the [Pope's] Message also reinforces the international community's perception of the importance of dialogue and promotes the recognition of human rights for everyone, combating new forms of racism and discrimination".

For his part, Fr Bentoglio affirmed that there are "currently fifteen million refugees" in the world, and that "the number of internally displaced persons, above all as relates to cases of violation of human rights, stands at around twenty-seven million".

"The challenge", he said, "consists in creating areas of tolerance, hope, healing and protection, and in ensuring that these dramas and tragedies - too often experienced in the past and in the present - never happen again". In this context, he highlighted how the objective is "to guarantee refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons are given the concrete possibility to develop their human potential".

The under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples indicated that "welcome begins with empathy; that is, with the effort to understand the other's feelings and to understand how it feels to find oneself in an unknown world with different customs and traditions".

He then went on to highlight that the problem is not limited to Europe alone, pointing out that "South Africa accepted 220 thousand asylum seekers during the course of last year, almost the same number of people as that accepted by all twenty-seven member States of the European Union together".

The behaviour of countries, said Fr Bentoglio, "is often dictated by fear of foreigners and, not infrequently, by veiled discrimination" thus "eluding their responsibility to welcome and support people who seek refuge and humanitarian protection".

"It seems certain that refugees and asylum seekers today suffer worse conditions than they did in the past, also in the host countries in the South of the planet". This "begs the question: what does it mean to live for years in an overcrowded camp with no hope of a better life, or to see no future for one's children? Thus, it often happens that people abandon the camp and move to urban conurbations in the hope of rebuilding a life for themselves, and that they do so without requesting the necessary authorisation and thus violate the law," he concluded.

Also on Ekklesia: 'Migration: Why a broader view is needed' (research paper) -


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