The Pope has proclaimed that the theme for 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be all about accepting migrants and refugees with open arms and open hearts, to say nothing of open wallets and open borders. The Pope is calling on the citizens of providing nations (the European Union and the United States) to be generous and to treat all migrants with brotherly love.
These are audacious requests of understanding for migrants who have committed unthinkable acts of murder and rape, only most recently in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve. The Pope took time to highlight the hardships faced by exploited and repressed migrants journeying from countries like Syria, which suffer from civil war and insurrectionist occupation by ISIS, but offered little insight into the practicalities of handling the massive socio-economic upheavals faced by accepting nations.
The Pope is asking the EU and the US to be more open and accepting of migrants and refugees.
In our time, migration is growing worldwide. Refugees and people fleeing from their homes challenge individuals and communities, and their traditional ways of life; at times they upset the cultural and social horizons which they encounter. Increasingly, the victims of violence and poverty, leaving their homelands, are exploited by human traffickers during their journey towards the dream of a better future. If they survive the abuses and hardships of the journey, they then have to face latent suspicions and fear. In the end, they frequently encounter a lack of clear and practical policies regulating the acceptance of migrants and providing for short or long term programmes of integration respectful of the rights and duties of all. Today, more than in the past, the Gospel of mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and points out way of responding which, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, find practical expression in works of spiritual and corporal mercy.
In the light of these facts, I have chosen as the theme of the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy. Migration movements are now a structural reality, and our primary issue must be to deal with the present emergency phase by providing programmes which address the causes of migration and the changes it entails, including its effect on the makeup of societies and peoples. The tragic stories of millions of men and women daily confront the international community as a result of the outbreak of unacceptable humanitarian crises in different parts of the world. Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck. Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost.
Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?
The Pope’s message of brotherly love and Christian generosity is likely to fall flat against the straining burden of providing housing, security, and oversight over the millions of migrants who have left the Middle East. The continued and increasingly frequent crimes committed by memkbers of the migrant community are also left unaddressed. Perhaps the real politik is harder to address than the Pope would care to comment.