Vatican City AsiaNews) - Pope Francis calls "on government leaders, lawmakers and the entire international community to look at the reality of people forcibly uprooted and undertake incisive initiatives and new approaches to protect their dignity, improve their quality of life and cope with the challenges that arise from modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery. It is about, I emphasise, human beings, who appeal for outreach and support, who need urgent action, as well as understanding and kindness. Their condition cannot leave anyone indifferent."
The Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People gave the pope an opportunity to speak to its participants and make his appeal. The council itself is meeting to discuss a paper, 'Welcoming Christ in Refugees and forcibly displaced Persons', which reflects the Church's pastoral concern over forced migration.
"The document," the pope said, "draws attention to the millions of refugees, displaced and stateless persons, as well as the [victims of] the scourge of human trafficking, which is increasingly drawing children into the worst forms of exploitation, armed conflict included. I reiterate here that 'human trafficking' is despicable, a disgrace to societies that claim to be civilised! Pimps and clients at every level must seriously examine their conscience before themselves and before God!
"Today the Church reiterates its strong plea for the protection of the dignity and centrality of each person, for respect of fundamental rights, as evinced by its social doctrine, rights that it wants extended to where they are denied to millions of men and women on every continent. In a world where there is a lot of talk about rights, how many times is human dignity trampled on?"
In the belief that "we are in fact a single human family, with many differences, walking towards unity, valorising solidarity and dialogue between peoples," the Church views itself "as a mother whose maternal concern takes the form of special tenderness and closeness to those who are forced to flee their country and live between uprootedness and integration. Christian compassion, which means 'suffering with', is expressed above all in a commitment to know the events that force people out of their homeland and, where necessary, give a voice to those who cannot cry out their pain and oppression."
"In this, you have an important task to fulfil, which is to raise awareness among Christian communities about the fate of fellow Christians whose existence has been scared by violence, abuse, distance from the family, traumatic events, escape from home, and uncertainty about the future in the refugee camp. Since all of these factors dehumanise, they must also push every Christian and every community to pay real attention. "
In his address, the Pope also focused on another aspect of hospitality, urging people "to see also the light of hope in the eyes and hearts of refugees and people forcibly uprooted. Such hope is expressed in expectations for the future, in a desire to build relations of friendship, in a wish to participate in the life of the host society through learning its language, finding work and educating one's children. I admire the courage of those who hope to resume gradually a normal life, waiting for joy and love to come back and cheer up their existence. All of us can and must nurture this hope!"
"As a Church, we must remember that by healing the wounds of refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking, by identifying with outsiders, with those who suffer, with the innocent victims of violence and exploitation, we put into practice the commandment of love that Jesus left us. We should read Chapter 25 in the Gospel of Matthew more often, for it speaks of the final judgment (31-46). On this, I would also like to draw the attention of each pastor and each Christian community to the journey of faith of Christian refugees forcibly uprooted from their countries as well as that of Christian migrants. They require special pastoral care that respects their traditions and accompanies them through to a harmonious integration into the Church organisations of the places in which they live. May our Christian communities truly be places of hospitality, of listening, and communion!"