Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us!

Ahmedabad: January 17th is designated as the ‘World Day of Migrants and Refugees’. The theme this year is ‘Migrants and refugees challenge us. The response of the Gospel of Mercy’.

Writing on the theme Pope Francis states, “In our time, migration is growing worldwide. Refugees and people fleeing from their homes challenge individuals and communities, and their traditional ways of life; at times they upset the cultural and social horizons which they encounter. Increasingly, the victims of violence and poverty, leaving their homelands, are exploited by human traffickers during their journey towards the dream of a better future. If they survive the abuses and hardships of the journey, they then have to face latent suspicions and fear. In the end, they frequently encounter a lack of clear and practical policies regulating the acceptance of migrants and providing for short or long term programmes of integration respectful of the rights and duties of all. Today, more than in the past, the Gospel of mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and points out way of responding which, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, find practical expression in works of spiritual and corporal mercy.”

Hundreds of migrant line-up to catch a train near Gevgelija, Macedonia, September 7, 2015. Several thousand migrants in Macedonia boarded trains on Sunday to travel north after spending a night in a provisional camp. Macedonia has organised trains twice a day to the north border where migrants cross into Serbia to make their way to Hungary. Since June, Macedonian authorities have said that more than 60,000 migrants have entered the country, and around 1,500 entered just in one day, mainly refugees from Syria. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov - RTX1RG9N

In one stroke, we are challenged by the painful reality of the refugees of today and at the same time we are made to realise that we have but no choice but to do all we can to address one of the most serious problems of our world today.

When Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany threw open the doors of Germany (and also of Europe) to the refugees who were coming en masse to Germany, there was a natural wave of resentment from several of her country men and women and also from other parts of Europe. She did not relent; though in recent days there are reports that she is slowly giving in “to public pressure”. On the other hand, we have a man like US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump who over and over again states that Muslim refugees should not be allowed into United States. The irony is that his ratings go up in the United States which is sworn to principles of democracy, equality and dignity of all men and women. Fortunately, Pope Francis has become a beacon of hope not only for refugees but for all men and women; some months ago he strongly expressed his desire that every Catholic Parish of Europe adopt at least one refugee family.

The refugee crisis today cannot be seen in isolation of powerful lobbies and other vested interests. The arms and ammunition industry plays a crucial role and so do mercenaries of every hue. There is very little political will in the world today to address the endemic causes of the refugee crisis; Pope Francis reminds us that these root causes include discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism and xenophobia.

It is important therefore that on a day dedicated to migrants and refugees, we commit ourselves whole-heartedly to address their plight and do all we can to ensure that our world becomes more humane, more just and more merciful for all – particularly to the migrants and refugees!

About Author : Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the
Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

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