World Day of Migrants and Refugees: generating hope not fear

By Press Office
January 18, 2015

In the worldwide Catholic Church, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is celebrated in January each year, having been instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X. In 2015 it falls on 18 January, which is also the Church's World Peace Day (and for many the first Day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity).

Pope Francis has joined the two together this time, and his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is a call for a change of heart, mind and direction at a time in which hostility and xenophobia is growing towards migrants -- especially in Europe, and in Britain, where the far right in some political parties and in the tabloid media continues to misrepresent and scapegoat.

Though the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is aimed especially at Catholics, obviously, there is a wider task of communicating hope instead of fear here – one which Ekklesia's staff, associates, consultants, supporters and friends ail recognise and own, whatever their own belief background.

The Pope declares that he wants "a Church without frontiers". He continues, inter alia: "The Church opens her arms to welcome all people, without distinction or limits, in order to proclaim that 'God is love' …"

"[I]n an age of such vast movements of migration, large numbers of people are leaving their homelands, with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions. Often, however, such migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility, even in ecclesial communities, prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution. In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need. ….

"Jesus Christ is always waiting to be recognised in migrants and refugees, in displaced persons and in exiles, and through them he calls us to share our resources ….

"Migration movements ... call us to deepen and strengthen the values needed to guarantee peaceful coexistence between persons and cultures. Achieving mere tolerance that respects diversity and ways of sharing between different backgrounds and cultures is not sufficient. This is precisely where the Church contributes to overcoming frontiers and encouraging the “moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalisation … towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world” (Papal Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014).

"Migration movements, however, are on such a scale that only a systematic and active cooperation between States and international organisations can be capable of regulating and managing such movements effectively. For migration affects everyone, not only because of the extent of the phenomenon, but also because of “the social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it raises, and the dramatic challenges it poses to nations and the international community” (Caritas in Veritate, 62).

"At the international level, frequent debates take place regarding the appropriateness, methods and required norms to deal with the phenomenon of migration. There are agencies and organisations on the international, national and local level which work strenuously to serve those seeking a better life through migration. Notwithstanding their generous and laudable efforts, a more decisive and constructive action is required, one which relies on a universal network of cooperation, based on safeguarding the dignity and centrality of every human person. This will lead to greater effectiveness in the fight against the shameful and criminal trafficking of human beings, the violation of fundamental rights, and all forms of violence, oppression and enslavement. Working together, however, requires reciprocity, joint-action, openness and trust, in the knowledge that “no country can singlehandedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon, which is now so widespread that it affects every continent in the twofold movement of immigration and emigration” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014).

"It is necessary to respond to the globalisation of migration with the globalisation of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions of migrants more humane. At the same time, greater efforts are needed to guarantee the easing of conditions, often brought about by war or famine, which compel whole peoples to leave their native countries.

"Solidarity with migrants and refugees must be accompanied by the courage and creativity necessary to develop, on a world-wide level, a more just and equitable financial and economic order, as well as an increasing commitment to peace, the indispensable condition for all authentic progress."

Pope Francis' message, of which these are extracts, was originally issued throughout the Church in September 2014.

Policies that facilitate "welcoming the stranger and valuing displaced and marginalised people" will be one of the principles and values Ekklesia advocates for in the General Election Year.

* Full message: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/p...

* More on migration from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/migration

* International Migrants Day: we need to change our thinking - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21172

* "We need a positive approach to migration" - Ekklesia statement: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17659

* Migration: 'Why a broader view is needed', by Vaughan Jones (2010). http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12034

* 'Are immigration controls moral?', by Vaughan Jones (2005). http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/280405immigration

* More on the upcoming General Election from Ekklesia here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.