Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore and Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace, has welcomed the message of Pope Francis for the 2017 World Day of Migrants and Refugees which takes place today in the universal Church and throughout the world. This is the 103rd papal message in support of migrants and refugees and the 2017 theme addresses ‘Child Migrants, the vulnerable and the voiceless’. Bishop McAreavey has also welcomed and offered his support to this year’s innovate media awareness campaign led by the Migrant and Refugee section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, which will focus on awareness raising around the particular challenges which face young refugees and migrants.
Bishop McAreavey said, “For 2017, and in terms of our support for migrants and refugees, Pope Francis is expressly asking all of us to particularly “take care of the young, who in a threefold way are defenceless: they are children, they are foreigners, and they have no means to protect themselves.” Every community that can, should heed this call, and should do so now.
“Unlike any time in our history, our collective duty of care towards migrants and refugees includes Irish society in a very significant way. This is true notwithstanding the enormous change that has taken place here over the past three decades, and the tempo of this change seems to be increasing rather than slowing. This change can be, at times, overwhelming and disorientating. It can sometimes leave us yearning for the so called ‘good old days’, when we felt things were slower, familiar and usually more predictable.
“While Irish society has changed, it is still important to distinguish between types of change in our lives: between progress for the better and change for the worse. The prevailing global economic model has meant that the production of goods can, almost instantaneously, move from a low wage economy to a lower wage economy as transnational corporations are no longer tied or committed to a specific location or country. Even when goods are produced in a developing country it is often the case that the bulk of profits will be reaped and spent in one of the world’s richest economies.”
Bishop McAreavey continued, “In the context of today’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the question arises: what then can we Christians do to show solidarity with our new neighbours? I believe we can start by reminding ourselves that our new neighbours are like ourselves; they want decent work and a secure home for their family. They miss their countries of origin; no matter what its problems are, home is always home, as we Irish know better than anyone. Perhaps the most simple thing we can do is to say ‘hello’ and continue to offer a welcome to the people on our street, in our schools and in our workplaces.”
Addressing the current economic model Bishop McAreavey said, “In his 2015 encyclical letter Pope Francis described the current situation in which ‘economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment’ (Laudato Si’ 56).
“In short, the current economic model means that developing countries are unlikely to be able to work or to produce their way out of poverty, no matter how hard they try. Corporations producing high street clothing or technological products in developing countries often bring their incomes through the lowest, most accommodating tax regimes in the west, leaving the people of the producing countries unable to benefit from their labour, and with only a damaged environment to show for it.
“This all seems very theoretical but in short it lies at the very heart of the current discussion about migration and refugees across Europe. If people cannot earn enough to live a decent life in their own country then it is inevitable that many will attempt to move to places where the lowest paid job offers more hope than is possible in their own home.
“Today, in cities and towns like Balbriggan, Ballaghadereen, Belfast, Clonee, Lurgan, Letterkenny, Newry and Tralee there are people from the Philippines, India, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Syria and from many other countries. They have come to work in a vast range of jobs including in academia, factories, on farms, and in the media, retail, medical and healthcare. Our parishes have been welcoming as befitting the nature of a Christian community. I know many have put down roots and appreciate the fact that people are interested in them and value their work and contribution to life here.”
Bishop McAreavey went on to say, “Sadly, there are exceptions to the warmth and welcome of Irish society to migrants and refugees. There have been racist attacks and incidents and no doubt we have all heard negative comments about one national group or another.
“But our duty to welcome the stranger does not end there. While it may not always be possible for Christians in Ireland to directly impact the global movement of people, we can do something which will have an impact on the inequality and suffering that forces such movement. When we go out to shop or wish to purchase online, we can choose to purchase ethically sourced goods that benefit the people and countries that produce them. We can support politicians who are peacemakers, who challenge policies and approaches that lead to tension and conflict.
“Ultimately as Christians, as we see young Eastern European men walk to work in meat factories in the early hours of the morning or Filipino nurses care for our sick, or Roma families struggle to adjust to life in Irish society, we need, in the words of Pope Francis “to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference” (Laudato Si’, 52).”
Bishop McAreavey concluded by saying, “The Catholic Church teaches that each person regardless of his or her economic or social position, racial or faith background must be treated with full dignity. Indeed, the New Testament uses the Greek term agápē (rather than philia or eros) when describing the deliberate choice to love for our fellow men and women.
“There have been many changes in Irish society but the duty to love our neighbour no matter where he or she is from is unchanged and, thankfully, unchangeable.”
See www.catholicbishops.ie for the text of Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees and for parish resources prepared by the Bishops’ Council for Immigrants. Follow the new awareness campaign from the Migrant and Refugee section of the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development @M_RSection on Twitter and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MandRSection