Brasilia (Fides Service) – On the occasion of World Migrant Day 2003 (which Brazil marks on 22 June), in harmony with the annual Fraternity Campaign which this year adopted the theme “Fraternity and the Elderly”, the Pastoral Service for Migrants, (PSM) part of the sector for social pastoral of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference, organised the 18th Migrants Week, 15 – 22 June.
With the theme “Migration and the Elderly” and the motto “Our parents told us”, the 18th Migrants Week was celebrated in parishes and dioceses all over Brazil. The aim of the initiative was to show that forced migration from one area to another disrupts daily life, particularly the life of the elderly involved. Bishop Andre Witte of Ruy Barbosa, who is president of the PSM, said “we focus our attention particularly on the elderly, whether they are migrants or non-migrants left behind by sons who have moved away. We try to ensure that they are well looked after and appreciated: both those who set out on their pilgrimage and those who stay behind and whose fatigue is doubled and who have a lot to tell.”
In Brazil migration is a widespread social-economic phenomenon. It is the cause of two problematic situations: concentration of many people in large industrialised cities such as Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, and abandoned rural areas especially in north east Brazil and the consequence is a tragic separation of families. In areas where there is no agricultural development policy, or where the climate is harsh and the soil is arid, millions of men leave their families, parents, wives, children, to try their fortune in industrialised cities. Because these men have no proper education or professional training, they have to accept the most humble jobs for which they are paid so little that they live in pitiful conditions and are unable to visit or help the families they leave behind. This produces so-called “widows of living husbands” who have somehow to provide for their family while the grandparents have to care for the children, also called “orphans of living parents”.
Besides calling attention to the problem and consequences of forced migration, Migrants Week also aims to increase awareness of society’s responsibility for the elderly and the need for public policies to guarantee respect for old people’s rights. With this in mind the PSM prepared material for the 18th Migrants Week which was distributed for use in parishes, movements and dioceses. The PSM kit included a handbook and suggestions for the celebration of World Migrants Day with songs, signs and prayers on the theme of migration. MR (Fides Service 25/6/2003 EM lines 32 Words: 446)