Asian Churches call for common solutions to immigration problems By Santosh Digal
by Santosh Digal
“Helping migrants” and promoting “appropriate social policies” are the goals highlighted at a conference that brought together representatives of 18 Asian bishops’ conferences. Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue in last Sunday’s Angelus by inviting governments to act “responsibly.”
Manila (AsiaNews) – Churches  in Asia should consider common approaches in solving common problems brought about by migration and should urge governments to develop social policies that improve migrants’ lives, this according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Angel N. Lagdameo, who attended a conference of Asian Churches held last week in Manila.

Speaking to 40 delegates comprising bishops, priests, religious and laypeople representing bishops' conferences from 18 Asian countries, the 68–year old prelate said local churches “can share their creative and holistic perspectives and solutions.”

The conference sponsored by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) included representatives from Vietnam, Myanmar, Timor Leste, Philippines, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Singapore among others.

Pope Benedict XVI also referred to the problem of immigration in last Sunday’s Angelus, urging governments in host states to act responsibly and improve living conditions whilst fighting “the criminal activities that too often come with clandestine migration.”

The Holy Father focused on immigration calling for “the generous cooperation of individuals and institutions in facing it and in finding solutions” in responsible ways “and in a humanitarian spirit.”

According to reports from the United Nations' International Labour Organisation, there are at least 22 million migrant workers in Asia and around 50 million from Asia with or without job.

In his opening statement, Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) Secretary General Orlando B. Quevedo said that “Migration is not a luxury but a sign of poverty. Migration has negative effect on family structures.”

Monsignor Lagdameo agreed. In his view migration changes family structures and can even destroy it. Mass migration abroad leaves families broken changing family structures so that there are more single-parent families and households being headed by older children. Governments are wrong in focusing and encouraging the break-up of families for economic gain, he said.

“The negative impacts (of migration) are not being considered because they [political leaders] are thinking only of the economic benefits to the country,” Lagdameo said.

For the CBCP chairman individual dioceses and local parishes “should be encouraged to take the lead in the pastoral care of migrants” and bishops’ conferences should network among themselves because the “problems of migrants can involve not only families, but also communities.””

What is more migration is a wonderful opportunity for evangelisation—an opportunity to bring migrants to the Church and the Church to the migrants, the prelate said.