God loves all men and women on earth and gives them the hope of a new era, an era of peace. His love, fully revealed in the Incarnate Son, is the foundation of universal peace. When welcomed in the depths of the human heart, this love reconciles people with God and with themselves, renews human relationships and stirs that desire for brotherhood capable of banishing the temptation of violence and war.”
Pope St John Paul II,
Message for World Day of Peace, January 1, 2000
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
This week Archbishop Jason Gordon will be host to Fr Robert Stark SSS, Regional Coordinator, Migrants and Refugees Section, Dicastery for Integral human Development at the Vatican. We extend a warm welcome to Fr Stark and hope that his stay with us will be fruitful.
On Wednesday, December 18 the world will observe International Migrants Day to raise awareness of the human rights of migrants. Hospitality is one of the priorities of our Archdiocese, and Pope Francis continues to urge us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, asks a pertinent question: “As a global community we face a choice. Do we want migration to be a source of prosperity and international solidarity, or a byword for inhumanity and social friction?… Migration powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies. Yet it is also a source of political tensions and human tragedies.”
Since time immemorial, human beings have been on the move. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that the word ‘migrant’ is “an umbrella term, not defined under international law, reflecting the common lay understanding of a person who moves away from his or her place of usual residence, whether within a country or across an international border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons…”
The World Health Organization says more people are on the move now than ever before. “There are an estimated 1 billion migrants in the world today of whom 258 million are international migrants and 763 million internal migrants…68 million of the world’s internal and international migrants are forcibly displaced today. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goal Agenda recognizes the positive contributions of refugees and migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development…Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places.”
Welcome the stranger
There is an international convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families (1990), but sadly, what we are experiencing in many parts of the world is fear of the ‘stranger’, which often leads to leaders tightening borders and people closing their hearts and minds; viewing the ‘other’ as a threat.
Solidarity is a key social justice principle. We are called to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need. Migrants and refugees have been coming to T&T for many years. Many continue to be vulnerable and can fall prey to exploitation in the labour market, human trafficking, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, crime/violence/sex work. They do not arrive here as empty vessels. They have God-given gifts/talents which will help us to build T&T.
Pope Francis has said: “…it is not only the cause of migrants that is at stake; it is not just about them, but about all of us, and about the present and future of the human family. Migrants, especially those who are most vulnerable, help us to read the ‘signs of the times’. Through them, the Lord is calling us to conversion, to be set free from exclusivity, indifference and the throw-away culture. Through them, the Lord invites us to embrace fully our Christian life and to contribute, each according to his or her proper vocation, to the building up of a world that is more and more in accord with God’s plan”.
As you know, in May 2018 Archbishop Gordon established the Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR) as part of CCSJ’s remit, and each parish is mandated to establish a Parish Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (PMMR).
Our newly appointed Coordinator for Migrants and Refugees, Simone Francois-Whittier has hit the ground running, as the saying goes, and has been visiting PMMRs, parish priests and others across the Archdiocese.
She is based with CCSJ at Archbishop’s House (622-6680). Remember that AMMR has shared resources with parishes e.g. a Toolkit, which was developed in collaboration with the Living Water Community and UNHCR. It is available online. We will continue to provide ongoing training to support you as you seek to meet the varied needs of migrants and refugees.
This Ministry must not be built in isolation from other parish ministries. The entire parish should work together to welcome the stranger. Matthew 25: 31–46 remains a key scriptural message underpinning this Ministry.
During this season of Advent, let us respect the dignity of migrants who come to our shores and play our part to “welcome the stranger”.