“Men and women, children, young people and the elderly seek a place where they can live in peace. To find it, many of them are willing to risk their lives on a journey that in most cases is long and dangerous, to undergo suffering and hardship, to come face to face with barbed wire and walls that are raised to keep them far from their goal.”
On the first day of the New Year, Pope Francis’s greetings are extended especially to the 250 million immigrants, 22 and a half million of whom are refugees.
His message is filled with proposals, which are offered to the international community for its analysis and study. Why are there so many refugees and immigrants in the world?
Francis recalls: “Saint John Paul II pointed to the growing number of refugees among the consequences of the interminable and horrendous series of conflicts, genocide and “ethnic cleansing” that marked the twentieth century. The new century wasn’t a real turning point. Armed conflicts and other forms of organized violence continue to provoke movements of populations within national confines and beyond. But people migrate for other reasons as well; primarily for a better life.”
Those who foment fear in the face of global migrations – perhaps for political reasons rather than building peace – sow violence. “Instead,” the Pope says, “I invite you to see them as opportunities for building a future of peace.” Migrants and refugees never come empty-handed. They “come loaded with courage, abilities, energy and aspirations besides the treasures of their own cultures. In this way they enrich the life of the nations that receive them.”
In his usual style, Francis doesn’t limit himself to a list of generic “guidelines,” but presents a complex strategy, comprised of four actions: receive, protect, promote and integrate.
Accept primarily means “expand ways of legal entry, do not turn them back to places where persecution and violence awaits them, and balance concern for national security with the protection of basic human fundamental rights.”
Regarding protection, Francis recommends that, in respect for the dignity of the person, migrants and refugees should be allowed freedom of movement, opportunities for employment and, in particular, the prevention of exploitation of women and children, “the ones who are most exposed to the risks and abuses.”
Promotion stands for the promotion and support of “integral human development.”
Among the many tools, he underscores “the importance of ensuring access to education for children and young people at every level of instruction. In that way they will not only cultivate and bring to fruition their own skills, but will also be better able to reach out to others and cultivate a spirit of dialogue instead of evasiveness or confrontation.”
Integration is not synonymous with assimilation, the complete sacrifice of one roots and loss of identity; on the contrary, it represents “allowing the refugee and immigrant to take full share in the life of the society that receives them, in a dynamic of mutual enrichment and fruitful collaboration in the promotion of the integral human development of the local communities.”
The message contains a clear call to the leaders of States of the whole world. Pope Francis looks forward in 2018, to the global double accord in favour of secure, orderly and lawful migrations that ensure the protection of refugees, inspired “by compassion, long=sightedness and courage, in order to seize every opportunity to advance the construction of peace. Only in this way will the necessary realism of international politics not become surrender to cynicism and global indifference.”
Recalling the words of St John Paul II, Pope Francis intends to entrust a message of new hope to the world, even in difficult times: “If the ‘dream’ of a world at peace is shared by many, and the contribution of migrants and refugees is acknowledged, the human race can more and more become a common home.”