On 14 January, the Church observes the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. For this 104th anniversary, Pope Francis has invited all to reflect on the theme, “Welcoming , Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees”. In a powerful message for the day, he appeals to all not to abdicate one’s responsibility but to positively respond to the cries of the forcibly displaced and excluded.
He particularly reminds the world leaders of their commitment. “At the United Nations Summit held in New York on 19 September 2016, world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level. To this end, the states committed themselves to drafting and approving, before the end of 2018, two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants. Dear brothers and sisters, in light of these processes currently underway, the coming months offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support the concrete actions which I have described with four verbs. I invite you, therefore, to use every occasion to share this message with all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts”.
The special UN General Assembly Meet on 19 September 2016, which is also referred to as the ‘United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants’ was indeed historic:. It was the very first time that the UN had brought together Heads of State and of Government to develop a blueprint for a more effective international response to perhaps the single most important crises of modern times, which affect millions across the globe today. What emerged from this momentous meet was ‘ The New York Declaration’, signed by 193 Member States (including India). The 24-pages path-breaking document said, “ We declare our profound solidarity with, and support for, the millions of people in different parts of the world who, for reasons beyond their control, are forced to uproot themselves and their families from their homes. Refugees and migrants in large movements often face a desperate ordeal. Many take great risks, embarking on perilous journeys, which many may not survive. Some feel compelled to employ the services of criminal groups, including smugglers, and others may fall prey to such groups or become victims of trafficking. Even if they reach their destination, they face an uncertain reception and a precarious future. We are determined to save lives. Our challenge is above all moral and humanitarian. Equally, we are determined to find long-term and sustainable solutions. We will combat with all the means at our disposal the abuses and exploitation suffered by countless refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations”. (#8-10)
To realise in practise the lofty ideals encompassed in the Declaration, world leaders committed themselves to drafting and approving, by the end of 2018, two Global Compacts: one regarding refugees and the second, for safe, orderly, regular and responsible migration. Both these compacts are meant to have a wide-ranging and positive impact on how the world family looks, protects and cares for refugees and migrants. All this is easier said than done. Already on 3 December 2017, the United States announced that it was withdrawing from the two Global Compacts. India on the other hand has literally shut its doors on the persecuted Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar. With xenophobia and exclusiveness on the rise in several other countries, the road ahead will be tough. Thankfully, most of the world is still concerned about the plight of refugees and migrants and hopefully, by the end of 2018, the Global Compacts will see the light of day!
On 1 January, the Church observed 51st World Day of Peace (in India, we observe it on 30 January – the anniversary of the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi). The message of Pope Francis focused on “Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace”. In doing so he has challenged “all people and all nations on earth” to respond to the needs and aspirations of the refugees and migrants because they too are “men and women in search of peace” He has called upon the world community to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees in a compassionate and meaningful way..
In 2017, Pope Francis established the Migrants and Refugees Section (M&R) as part of the new Vatican Discastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, under the direction of Cardinal Peter Turkson. The M&R is for the time being, personally guided by Pope Francis with Fr. Michael Czerny S.J. and Fr. Fabio Baggio C.S. as the Under Secretaries. In keeping with the thrust of Pope Francis, the M&R has published a significant booklet, ‘ Towards the Global Compacts on Migrants and on Refugees 2018’, which contains three important documents:
i. Message of Pope Francis for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees
ii. Twenty Pastoral Action Points for reflection and implementation at the local level
iii. Twenty Action Points for the Global Compacts.
This document (which can be downloaded from the M&R website: https://migrants-refugees.va/20-action-points) is an open invitation to all to reflect, to internalise and to act substantially in order to respond to the realities of the refugees and migrants today; to share it with our collaborators/colleagues/companions and with all women and men of goodwill; to contact the local Bishops/Dioceses/ Catholic organisations and see how best, together with them, we can mainstream the concerns/thrust of this document; to engage with all political and social actors, which will hopefully lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts!
Pope Francis challenges all world leaders and citizens: to move towards and realise our commitment to the global compacts on migrants and refugees today!
6 January 2018
* ( Fr Cedric Prakash sj is a human rights activist. He is currently based in Lebanon, engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications. Contact: email@example.com)
(Published on 15th January 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 03)