World Day of migrants and refugees in 2018
“Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees” is the title of the Holy Father’s message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees to be celebrated on 14th January 2018. There are four, very clear verbs which commit the Church, National and International Institutions and all men of good faith to make urgent and daily efforts. At the beginning of his message, the Pope reminds us that the Book of Leviticus states : «You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God» ( Lv 19,34). Then Francis goes on to say: “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age” (see Mt 25,35-43).
The encounter with Jesus today occurs in communion with our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters. Our world, as we can clearly see, is invaded by people; they are sons and daughters, not foreigners; they are sons and daughters, not immigrants.
The presence of the Lord occurs more and more in the joint presence of all peoples; they do not arrive with empty hands but bring gifts, individual gifts obviously: they bring spirituality, culture, tradition and humanity. When talking about migration, people often speak of the Biblical Exodus. Instead, it is an Epiphany, a manifestation of the Lord who is coming.
The Pope also writes in his message “Integration is not assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or forget their own cultural identity. Rather contact with others leads to discovering their “secret”, to open towards them, to welcome their valid aspects and thus contributing to a greater mutual awareness. This is a lengthy process which aims to shape societies and cultures, rendering them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to men”.
The Lord Jesus witnesses to us the paternity of God, who sent his Only Son to build the world according to the measures of love, where the lost sheep, the stone cast aside and the prodigal son are the objects of care, attention and charity of the Father. A father who desires that all shall be saved and the dignity of all shall be recognized.
To be converted also means overcoming an antithesis between those inside and those outside, between those born in a territory and those who arrive there, and turn it into a synthesis which is that of love, in which we go beyond ourselves and understand the sense of loss and bewilderment of many men and women.
International institutions continue to become more aware of the migratory phenomenon. The United Nations Summit which took place in New York on 19th September 2016, demonstrated the wish to intensify efforts in favor of migrants and refugees, to save their lives and protect their rights by sharing this responsibility on a global level. For such purposes, the Member States undertook to draft and approve two Global Compacts by the end of2018, one dedicated to refugees and one to migrants.
The Church which has always reflected on the problem of migrants and refugees, most recently through the Migrants and Refugees Section (headed personally by the Pope) in the Vatican Department of Integral Human Development, has, after consulting various episcopal conferences and catholic NGO’s, drafted Twenty Points of Action based on the so-called “good practices” , a concrete and implementable answer.
We must learn and understand and welcome all those who are suffering from war and hunger. We must seek out with courage among our “virtues” also that side of our character which often takes after that of the Pharisees, in order to enter into another dimension of human fraternity based on reconciliation. It is not enough to use the Gospels as the basis of a strange etiquette: this is hypocrisy. We must eliminate all obstacles on the path to fraternity and make the House of the Father the house of all comers, no-one excluded.