FR. WIESŁAW WÓJCIK TChr
Migration became a widely-spreading phenomenon in the contemporary world. It comprises both origin countries of immigrants and transit or target countries
The phenomenon of migration becomes a dramatic challenge for politicians and economists, but also for sociologists and demographers. It concerns millions of people, so it is also a challenge which the Church, serving to the whole humankind, must undertake in the evangelical spirit of love.
Emigration – a global problem
This year’s World Day of a Migrant and a Refugee, celebrated on Sunday 18 January, is the time of a special prayer in the intention of those who are far away from their homes and families for various reasons. Foreigners who are particularly endangered, feel this problem painfully: migrants deprived of suitable documents, refugees, people looking for asylum, forced to migration by severe conflicts maintaining in many parts of the world, even on our eastern border – in Ukraine.
Factors causing mass escapes of people are still getting stronger and in the nearest years we can expect the increase in the number of refugees. Already today we say about the number of over 45 million people, who are forced to change their place of living. If a person receives the status of a refugee, it means that the country where he lives, is obliged to take care of him, and also support him financially if necessary. Because refugees, especially in the beginning, do not usually know the local language or rules, it is more difficult for them to find work and start ‘normal’ life. Mass media inform that some citizens of the EU countries are hostile to the inflow of immigrants, including refugees, in concern about the economic-political stability. There appeared even a term of ‘Europe fortress’ which suggests that it is necessary to defend the access to our continent. It leads to sealing borders and also to creating procedures hindering settling down in a country.
However, even 80 percent of refugees get not to developed countries of Europe or Northern America, but to developing countries which do not have any means to keep camps for refugees. For many of them it means necessity to stay in their camps for many years – in difficult conditions, without any perspectives for changing the situation – or further breach of human rights.
Are there any positive aspects of emigration?
Accepting forced immigrants is an expression of solidarity and respecting rights and human dignity. Refugees leave their countries in fear of their safety, so when we give them asylum we save their health, and sometimes even life. Besides that, opened borders favour communication, develop trade routes, favour cultural exchange and growing mutual acceptance.
So, migrants and refugees need particular pastoral care from church communities, sensitive not only to their personal suffering, but also to negative consequences of difficult existence conditions. The vocation of the Church is showing dignity to migrants and serving them. The situation of extirpation in which they are, and insensitivity of people push them aside to the margin of the society. Therefore, the Church should act more intensively, be more vigilant, implement all suitable initiatives in a reasonable and delicate way. The Church also encourages migrants and refugees not to close up and not to isolate themselves from pastoral life of a diocese and a parish, which has accepted them. However, it warns clergy and believers, not to try to assimilate them, liquidating their individuality. The Church is rather trying to include migrants, people on their way, to its community, recognizing the value of their otherness, so as to build a community of believers in this way, which is hospitable and is full of solidarity.
Popes make an appeal
These problems are noticed by pope Francis in this year’s message on the World Day of a Migrant and a Refugee entitled: ‘The Church without borders – a Mother of everybody’. He emphasizes that ‘the Church is spreading culture of accepting and solidarity in the world, according to which we cannot consider anybody as useless, odd one out or rejected’. And, addressing directly to migrants and refugees, the Holy Father appeals to help it widen borders of love and not lose trustfulness or hope. Let’s take the example of the Holy Family in exile in Egypt, looking trustfully at the future and being certain that God never leaves it.
For his whole pontificate, St. John Paul II was taking care of life of migrants and refugees. In 1988 in his message on the World Day of a Migrant and a Refugee encouraged everyone to participate actively in removing reasons deciding about emigration of so many millions of people: ‘Let everyone, as much as it is possible, accept refugees and migrants in a Christian way, realizing effectively words of the liturgical prayer: ‘Almighty God, who sent Your Son to share our worries and hopes, and made Him the centre of life and history, look mercifully at those who are migrating on roads of the world in search for work, so that they would feel solidarity everywhere in Your love’ (prayer during the Holy Mass for migrants).
The solemn Holy Mass celebrated in the intention of Polish migrants and refugees in Poland will be celebrated by bishop Artur Miziński, the general secretary of the Polish Episcopal Conference, on Sunday 18 January 2015 at 11.00 in the General House of Christ’s Society for Polonia Abroad in Poznań. It will be attended by priests of Polish Diaspora, clerics of the Seminary TChr, missionaries of Christ the King, foreign students and representatives of refugees in Poland.
The author of the text is a director of the Institute of Emigration Pastoral Ministry in Poznań.