Print Version    Email to Friend
Testament to a dream that is no utopia

VATICAN (SE): “All indicators available to the international community suggest that global migration will continue into the future. For my part, I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace,” Pope Francis says in his Message for the 51st World Day of Peace, which is marked on 1 January 2108.
Addressing the theme, Migrants and refugees: Men and women in search of peace, Pope Francis says, “Among those who I constantly keep in my prayer, I would like to mention again the over 250 million migrants worldwide of whom 22.5 million are refugees.”
Calling them people in search of peace, the pope says, “They are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardship and suffering and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.”
He then makes an appeal to extend compassion towards these people on the move and embrace those fleeing violence and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.
The pope then appeals to all people to look at the millions on the move through different eyes, calling on the world to view them with a contemplative gaze that embraces the wisdom of faith and recognises all of us as belonging to one family, migrants and local populations that welcome them, and recognising that all have the same right of access to the goods of this earth.
He says that the destination of the goods of this earth are universal and citing the social doctrine of the Church says, “It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded.”
Pope Francis then adds that we must look at all of life with this contemplative gaze of faith.
“We must turn this contemplative gaze to the cities where we live, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares… fostering solidarity, fraternity and desire for goodness, truth and justice—in other words, fulfilling the promise of peace.”
The contemplative gaze of faith the pope says would ensure an understanding that migrants and refugees do not arrive empty handed and lead to a recognition that they bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as treasures of their own cultures with them.
“In this way they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them,” Pope Francis says.
He adds that the contemplative gaze of faith should also guide the discernment of those responsible for the public good and encourage them to pursue policies of welcome within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good.
“Those who see things in this way will be able to recognise the seeds of peace that are already sprouting and nurture growth. “Our cities are often polarised by conflict over the presence of migrants and refugees and will thus turn into workshops of peace,” he continues.
However, he says that nothing will happen without political will and determination to make it happen, saying that a four-pronged plan needs to be put into place that incorporates welcome, protection, promotion and integration.
Welcome involves expanding legal pathways and a balancing of security concerns with concern for fundamental human rights. 
He quotes the scriptures as saying, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Protection involves recognising and defending the dignity of refugees and migrants as people, as well as understanding that they do not come with hostility, but in search of security which has been denied to them in their homelands.
Pope Francis adds that God does not discriminate and we should not either. “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow,” he quotes the scriptures as saying.
Promotion involves ensuring access to the avenues that make for self-sufficiency within society, like education and the opportunity for work that can allow them to cultivate their natural potential and assist them in fostering an environment of cooperation rather than confrontation.
“The bible teaches us that ‘God loves the foreigner residing among you… And you are to love those, as you too were foreigners in Egypt’.”
Lastly, he says that integration allows the new-comer to participate in the life of society fully, as St. Paul says, “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people.”
In his New Year Message for Peace, Pope Francis calls on the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts; one to monitor safe, orderly and regular migration; and the other for the protection of refugees.
He points out that the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has published a 20-point plan designed to put the four principles of welcome, protection, promotion and participation into practice.
The pope then paid tribute to the patron of migrants and refugees, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, in the centenary year of her death.
He describes her as a remarkable woman, who devoted her whole life to the service of migrants and taught us how to welcome, protect, promote and integrate among our brothers and sisters.
In tying up his appeal to the people of the whole world, Pope Francis quotes his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, as speaking of a dream for a peaceful world coming true only when the world is shared by all; and that time will come only if the contribution to life that refugees and migrants make is evaluated properly.
“Then humanity can become more and more a universal family and our earth a true common home,” he quotes Pope John Paul as saying, adding, “Throughout history, many have believed in this dream and their achievements are a testament to the fact that it is no mere utopia.”

More from this section