ConAltriOcchi blog – 以不同的眼光看世界-博客

"C'è un solo modo di vedere le cose finché qualcuno non ci mostra come guardare con altri occhi" – "There is only one way to see things, until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes" (Picasso) – "人观察事物的方式只有一种,除非有人让我们学会怎样以不同的眼光看世界" (毕加索)


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Migrants: the “lepers” of today

 

The Book of Leviticus tells us that not only were lepers banned from their villages, they also had to shout out «Unclean, unclean!» as they approached, to warn others of their presence. This mark of infamy was something that affected them deeply, that scarred their very conscience, to the point of becoming a sort of second nature, something they themselves accepted. We can project this contrast between the village and the leper through the centuries to our own day and age. Today, we are the village, our communities, the old Western countries, our economic system gone mad, even our Church, at times, when it becomes clericalised and unable to reach out, like Pope Francis would like it to do.

But our Western society, despite claiming to be inspired by the great principles of equality and fraternity, which are dear to the tradition of the Enlightenment, which was born and developed in Europe, the heartland of Christianity, seems to be living a huge lie. Apparently, it is willing to integrate outcasts (migrants, illegal immigrants, the homeless, convicts …) into the European and western village, but effectively it is unable to do so. And why is this? Because it should be looking into itself and questioning itself, its actions, what it is becoming and exporting to other regions of the world, but it doesn’t have the guts, or better, we don’t have the guts, to do so.

Migrants are the lepers of the twenty-first century, of the here and now. Society has no greater places of exclusion than the so-called “reception” camps, which, at times, are nothing less than modern-day “lagers”, places where we can confine and conceal our hypocrisy and our selfishness.

Extending the boundaries of our village to make room for the outcasts, updating its rules, becoming a true global village – this is the path that the Pope, today, has shown us once again, with his highly symbolic, yet also very concrete, visit. Because the Pope has said that he wants to give voice to those with no say in society, who are prisoners of an uncertain, even horrible, future … Extending the borders, knocking down the walls, globalising solidarity: these are the last scraps of dignity we can hang on to.

The world and the christless or, worse, listless and indifferent, West, prey to individualistic spiritualist fads, without a shred of charitable empathy, incapable of sharing and donating, must know that Jesus himself was cast out, rejected, forsaken. The Messiah himself, he who was awaited by the prophets (and not by the powerful, or those who just wanted vengeance), like a discarded stone. The child Jesus and the Holy Family of Nazareth lived like migrants, even refugees we might say, for many years before being able to return to their homeland.

Today Pope Francis has reminded us once again, with ever greater strength, that Jesus came to awaken the conscience of the outcasts of today, urging them to stop considering themselves as legitimately cast out, because God is on their side and they must never lose hope. Woe, instead, unto the inhabitants of the village, if they shut themselves inside their walls: woe to the Scribes and Pharisees of today.

Jesus has – once and for all – sanctioned the collapse of the rock on which the enclosed village is built, adorned with its modern evanescent and empty temples: “Not a stone will be left here standing”, unless it becomes a global, caring and open village, open to everybody in the name of our common humanity. We ask the Lord to give us the humility and courage to flatten the walls of the camp, open its gates and extend its boundaries, otherwise we ourselves, and our children before us, will be overcome and stifled by the unassailable fortresses we have raised.


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Giving voice to the voiceless. The World Day of Migrants and Refugees

The Church celebrates Sunday, January 15th, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This year, Pope Francis has chosen as its theme: “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless.” This day has more than one hundred years and was established in 1914 by Pope Benedict XV.

As we all know, the issue of migrants has become a global emergency. According to data reported by the Foundation ISMU, there are over 181 thousand arrivals via the sea recorded in 2016 in Italy – an increase by 18% compared to the previous year. Of them, 25 thousand are children or youngsters, of which 14% unaccompanied. With this Day we are called to give voice and above all answers to these human beings, especially women and children, who are forced to flee and to leave everything in the hope of a better life. But what answers can we give? Our simple answer is a matter of common sense: humanity, generosity and competence.

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Credit: Website of Archdiocese of Vancouver

First, we note that a lot of information that we are given or that we report are incorrect. This is often the responsibility of some media, but also our own, as citizens. Indeed, we have a duty to get the right information and not to judge based on the feel and appearance. Especially when it comes to issues so fundamental and sensitive, like those of life and safety of humans fleeing because they risked their lives and their safety.

From the information we receive and what we talk about, it seems that migrants and refugees are a large portion of the Italian population. Again according to information of ISMU Foundation, reported on a recent article by Il Sole 24 Ore, Italians believe that immigrants account for 30% of the population, whereas it is a mere 10%. Similarly, they have a perception of a larger Muslim presence, which is seen by many with some apprehension. Such wrong perceptions certainly do not help to address the issue of migrants, which requires the cooperation and goodwill of all, by international institutions, governments, up to us the citizens.

Then, there is we, the Christians. Especially us, we cannot shirk the duty of charity and we cannot be victims of fear, especially if unmotivated. We also need to overcome a narrow and unhistorical view of reality. The Christian vocation implies to shift from particularism to universality. Christianity is, by its nature, open to the world. It is not by chance that Christianity has adapted to many cultures and social systems, “to the ends of the earth”.

For this reason, let us follow Pope’s invitation and what was said prophetically by St. John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate. Let us open the political and economic borders of our countries. Let us open vacant houses, parishes and religious institutes. And above all, let us open our hearts to our brothers and sisters who are suffering. We will realize once again the reality of the Gospel: if we join our forces, something beautiful and human will come out, as it happened with the five loaves and two fishes that were shared and distributed equitably, with the help of the Lord, and fed much people.

And let us also be faithful to our history. Already in 1914, Pope Benedict XV, wrote to the Italian diocesan bishops the circular letter “The pain and worries”, which requested to establish an annual day to raise awareness and funds in favor of Italian immigrants. Over the years, this prophetic initiative of the Pope, which was conceived in the context of the First World War, has evolved and has been adjusted to the circumstances, as it is today. Therefore, the pastoral action of the Church regarding the migration issue has a long history and considerable experience, and has always been a fundamental part of her Social Doctrine. We Christians must practice it and implement it in the world, according to the times and the moments.

History teaches that fear is always a bad counselor. Our fears, then, are relative. From the point of view of migrants, our fears are their hope. After all, if our European and Western culture now feels to be more fragile, insecure and threatened, it is also due to the fact that other peoples are finally claiming dignity and food for their children, after centuries of oppression and exploitation. What the Blessed Paul VI had indicated in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio is happening today. And today we understand better that “development is the new name for peace.”

Let us convert toward a soberer lifestyle, exercising concrete gestures of charity, rather than many forms of devotionism to the limit of faith that do not bring benefit to anyone, to our Christian path and our soul. A gesture of charity, a prayer, a different lifestyle can bring something nice, maybe a better life, to someone. Let us add a gesture of charity, some of our time, to a “Hail Mary” that we are required to do as penitence further to Confession. “Love covers a multitude of sins” – says the Scripture. We are a small drop in the ocean, said St. Mother Teresa. Yet now we can all see what the “little pencil in God’s hand” was able to do.

Today on the international stage there is a great opportunity to effectively address the phenomenon of migration. The new Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres led for many years the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR). His experience in this field is a very important factor and certainly weighed on his election. It is also something hopeful. The world, in its most important institution, seems to have finally decided to address decisively and without more referrals the humanitarian crisis linked to the emergency of migrants, which is a daily emergency. Guterres is also a practicing Catholic. We think he can combine his technical and political skills with the Christian humanism.

And let us not forget the work of mercy and prophetic action of our beloved Pope Francis, who decided to lead himself the office dedicated to the migrants of the new Congregation for Integral Human Development.

Let us pray and work as much as we can for our brothers and sisters, let us open our hearts to them, each of us according to our own ability, sensitivity, and skills.