11/14/2006, 00.00
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Pope: promote integration of migrant families, a "positive value"

In his message for the 93rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Benedict XVI drew attention to the hardships experienced by those who are forced to leave their homes. He also highlighted the struggle against human trafficking, with women and children possible victims of – even sexual – exploitation. The conditions facing families of refugees have deteriorated.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The migrant family represents a "positive value" that requires legislative, juridical and social steps to facilitate integration and to fight human trafficking. On the other hand, immigrant families are invited to adopt an open and positive attitude towards the society hosting them, so that an integrated community may be constructed, a "common household" for all. This is the gist of a message of Benedict XVI – published today – for the 93rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, due to be held on 14 January 2007 with the theme "The migrant family".

Expressing concern about the "worsening conditions" of families of refugees and all those who must leave their country for diverse reasons, the pope "encourages the ratification of the international legal instruments that aim to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and their families."

The message of the pope says: "In this misfortune experienced by the Family of Nazareth, obliged to take refuge in Egypt, we can catch a glimpse of the painful condition in which all migrants live, especially, refugees, exiles, evacuees, internally displaced persons, those who are persecuted. We can take a quick look at the difficulties that every migrant family lives through, the hardships and humiliations, the deprivation and fragility of millions and millions of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people."

"The migrant's family meets many difficulties," continues the pope. "The distance of its members from one another and unsuccessful reunification often result in breaking the original ties. New relationships are formed and new affections arise. Some migrants forget the past and their duties, as they are subjected to the hard trial of distance and solitude. If the immigrant family is not ensured of a real possibility of inclusion and participation, it is difficult to expect its harmonious development."

Benedict XVI highlighted the International Convention for the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families, which was enforced on 1 July 2003, recognizing "the value of the family also in the sphere of emigration, now a structural phenomenon of our societies." The Church "encourages the ratification" of accords that aim to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and their families and, offers its help through various structures.

Benedict XVI said: "Much is already being done for the integration of the families of immigrants, although much still remains to be done. There are real difficulties connected with some 'defence mechanisms' on the part of the first generation immigrants, which run the risk of becoming an obstacle to the greater maturity of the young people of the second generation. This is why it is necessary to provide for legislative, juridical and social intervention to facilitate such integration. In recent times, there is an increase in the number of women who leave their countries of origin in search of better conditions of life, in view of more promising professional prospects. However, women who end up as victims of trafficking of human beings and of prostitution are not few in number."

The pope's message placed particular emphasis on families of refugees "whose conditions seem to have gone worse in comparison with the past, also specifically regarding the reunification of family nuclei. In the camps assigned to them, in addition to logistic difficulties, and those of a personal character linked to the trauma and emotional stress caused by the tragic experiences they went through, sometimes there is also the risk of women and children being involved in sexual exploitation, as a survival mechanism. In these cases an attentive pastoral presence is necessary. Aside from giving assistance capable of healing the wounds of the heart, pastoral care should also offer the support of the Christian community, able to restore the culture of respect and have the true value of love found again. It is necessary to encourage those who are interiorly-wrecked to recover trust in themselves. Everything must also be done to guarantee the rights and dignity of the families and to assure them housing facilities according to their needs. Refugees are asked to cultivate an open and positive attitude towards their receiving society and maintain an active willingness to accept offers to participate in building together an integrated community that would be a 'common household' for all.

Finally, the reflection of Benedict XVI touched upon the problem of students from other countries, "who are far from home, without an adequate knowledge of the language, at times without friends and often with a scholarship that is insufficient for their needs. Their condition is even worse if they are married. Through its Institutions, the Church exerts every effort to render the absence of family support for these young students less painful. It helps them integrate in the cities that receive them, by putting them in contact with families that are willing to offer them hospitality and facilitate knowing one another. As I had the opportunity to say on another occasion, helping foreign students is 'an important field of pastoral action… Indeed, young people who leave their own country in order to study encounter many problems and especially the risk of an identity crisis' (L'Osservatore Romano, 15 December 2005)."

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