Vatican City (Fides) – “The migratory phenomenon was born with man. It dates back to the time of our ancestors. Today, however, it has acquired a universal dimension encouraged by various aspects of modern globalisation which push men and women to cross national borders with or without authorisation. What is more, violence, wars, violation of human rights, terrorism give rise to a movement of refugees or displaced persons. Obviously this complex situation brings with it problem requiring urgent solutions and the Church, Mother and Teacher, cannot and will not remain impassive in front of this suffering.” Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples said this when he presented on 11 November at the Holy See Press room, the 5th International Conference on Migrants and Refugees which will take place 17 a- 22 November on the theme <Starting out from Christ for renewed pastoral for migrants and refugees>. “Having crossed the threshold of the third millennium, we intend to face the phenomenon of migrants and refugees from the pastoral point of view naturally not isolated from the others. We wish therefore to, "set out from Christ" to propose reflections, convictions, programmes and pastoral activity relevant to our world lacerated marginalisation and divisions” the Cardinal said.
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Council mentioned certain aspects of the phenomenon of migration. Every year about one billion people leave their country of origin for reasons of work, tourism, pilgrimage, exile, to escape war, because of poverty or in search of asylum. The International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) speaks of a mobile population and this includes "immigrants", at present 175 million. At the beginning of our century, one person out of every 35 is a migrant, that is 2,9% of the world’s population and 48% of migrants are women. In the last 35 years the number of international migrants has more than doubled. No country is excluded from the phenomenon of international migratory waves, as country of origin, transit or destination and at times all three. Irregular migration continues to be an extremely complex phenomenon on which precise and reliable information is not always available. It is estimated that between 700.000 and 2 million women and children are object-subject of trafficking every year across international borders. It is also estimated that 500.000 enter irregularly the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, while in the European Union the figure reportedly various between 120.000 and 500.000 a year. Clandestine introduction of migrants is a highly profitable trade which generates billions of dollars.
With regard to the new challenges of this phenomenon Archbishop Marchetto underlined that migration “is without a doubt a missionary challenge”. “Awareness of living in a world ever more globalised but at the same time marked by diversity, - cultural, sociali economic, political and religious - presents new challenges to human formation, mainly education to coexistence in multi-cultural and multi-religious environments. We must find key solutions to the difficult problem of harmonising humanity, challenged by the diversity of peoples, ethnic identities cultures and religions of which is it composed.”
Rev. Michael Blume, S.V.D., Under Secretary of the Council, illustrated the situation in the world of refugees, their relations with states and the commitment of the Catholic Church. “Unfortunately today we see growing disparity of commitment assumed by nations with regard to existing international legislation and current practice. Many countries have adopted plans to elude their responsibility, to avoid facing the problems of forced migration and keep them outside their frontiers” he said. “Because all human beings are our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died and is Risen, we see, behind the news and statistics, human beings, persons with a face and a family, who love and are loved, each with his or her own story of hope, aspiration and fears to be shared amidst individual and collection suffering.” In many places the Catholic Church works to provide assistance to asylum seekers and refugees with various activities including humanitarian and also political questions encountered by refugees. “Nevertheless there are certainly still numerous refugees and displaced persons in need of more significant pastoral care and greater presence of the Church in their midst” said Father Blume, adding that he hoped the Conference would “give new impulse to this pastoral activity all over the world”. (S.L.) (Fides Service 11/11/2003 – lines 55 ; words 767)