Not afraid of the encounter

In multi-cultural and multi-religious Europe

The Eight European Congress on Migration promoted by the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, opened April 27 in Malaga, Spain – ongoing until May 1st -, “with a foot in Africa and a foot in Europe”. The meeting is attended by some fifty participants from all over Europe including bishops, national directors for the pastoral care of migrants and pastoral workers. In a message to participants, that opened the congress, Benedict XVI conveys his hope that migrants’ “rights be recognized” and their “living conditions improved under all aspects”. In the message the Holy Father encourages participants in the meeting “to continue their commitment for an adequate pastoral action to all those who suffer the consequences of having fled from their homelands or who feel they are without a land of reference”.The figures. Figures show that Europe is increasingly multi-religious and multi-cultural. “According to estimates, 24 million immigrants live in EU-27 Countries, most of whom arrive from other EU States. Two thirds of all migrants live in Germany, France and the UK, while migration to Mediterranean countries is increasing. Figures regarding illegal migrants are harder to collect, but “according to recent estimates they range from 4.5 to 8 million, with an estimated increase of 350-500 thousand per year”. Surveys show the local population has “an increasingly negative perception” of migration flows in Europe. The recrimination. In his address, Msgr. Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People said that we are before a “kind of institutionalised ethnic distortion, which surely does not favour the autochthones’ serene approach to the immigrants or the immigrants’ process of integration into the fabric of the societies of destination.” Msgr. Veglio voiced his concern that since “Europe feels like a besieged fortress, it tackles the phenomenon of mobility on the defensive”. “In this way, the unacceptable trilogy ‘immigration – criminality and terrorism – insecurity’ is proposed and reaffirmed'”, he declared. “This is why the objective of the European policy appears to be to limit the number of immigrants by making it difficult or almost impossible for the regular ones to arrive, and to eliminate the irregular immigrants”. Msgr. Vegliò warned: “Punitive measures are not enough. Often they do not even discourage new departures but only make them more dangerous or costly”, and added: “The political exploitation of migrations without really taking the necessary precautions is even more damaging. This can unleash xenophobic resentment in the local people and, as a result, violent reactions that may even find justification in the words of one politician or another, such as, ‘You have to be mean with the illegal immigrants‘. “Instead – remarked the President of the Pontifical dycastery – the question should be asked: How can the supply and demand for labour be met without making the foreign workers always go through the door of illegality?” Msgr. Vegliò suggests to hold a “positive viewpoint”, and pointed out: “The more restrictive the measures are, the more the number of illegal migrants and traffickers in foreign labour grows”. A testimony. “The Christian believer is not afraid of the encounter with other persons, cultures and religions. He for first acknowledges himself fulfilled in the encounter with Christ”, said Cardinal Josif Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb and CCEE vice-President. The situation of migration flows in Europe “is complex, and in some cases it is reason for concern. The new reality of our Countries leads to questions, which trigger different reactions. Generous reception is unfortunately accompanied by refusal, fears, and closures”, he said. But Christian faithful “do not fear the encounter”. Christian witness “always entails a path directed at the good of our brothers, whereby our behaviour complies with the principles of fraternity and responsibility for the promotion of the encounter, of dialogue, reception, hospitality and to consider the integral good of the human person, the wellbeing of the family and the quest for true peace”.The commitment. Participants thanked the Pope in a message in which they convey the objectives of the meeting. “We want to meet the challenge of considering contemporary migration under a positive angle, and view it as an event that solicits Christians’ responsibility in being active players in the integration and reception projects, thus promoting cooperation in all political and economic environments”. “We wish to reaffirm that men and women on the move are a precious resource for the entire human family of peoples, thanks to the human, spiritual and cultural potentials that every individual is a repository of”. “We acknowledge the importance of focusing on integration strategies, respecting the appropriate intercultural and dialogue itineraries and safeguarding everyone’s legitimate aspiration to security and legality”.

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