Pilgrimages of faith and hope
(Vatican Radio) January 13 is the day on which the Catholic Church marks World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Each year, for that occasion, the Pope releases a message in which he reflects on the predicament of those who choose to migrate in pursuit of a better life or are forced to seek refuge away from home.
Pope Benedict XVI’s message, as always released before the actual day is observed, was dedicated this year to the theme “Migrations: pilgrimage of faith and hope”.
The Pope introduces his reflection on a personal note:
“I was thinking also of the millions of men and women who, for various reasons, have known the experience of migration. Migration is in fact “a striking phenomenon because of the sheer numbers of people involved, the social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it raises, and the dramatic challenges it poses to nations and the international community, for “every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance”.
For this reason – the Pope continues – he has chosen to focus the theme of the 2013 World Day of Migrants and Refugees on the fact that migrations are pilgrimages of faith and hope.
“Faith and hope are inseparable in the hearts of many migrants, who deeply desire a better life and not infrequently try to leave behind the “hopelessness” of an unpromising future. During their journey many of them are sustained by the deep trust that God never abandons his children; this certainty makes the pain of their uprooting and separation more tolerable and even gives them the hope of eventually returning to their country of origin.
Faith and hope are often among the possessions which emigrants carry with them, knowing that with them, “we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey”
In the vast sector of migration, the Pope points out, the Church shows her maternal concern in a variety of ways.
To comment on and to analyse the Pope’s message, Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to someone who is deeply involved in the concerns of migrants and refugees and is dedicating her professional life and know-how to how providing migrants with a landing, some much needed legal support and information, and hopefully – a springboard for their future.
Her name is Katrine Camilleri. She is a lawyer and the recipient of an important prize for those who work in the field: the Nansen refugee Award.
She is also the Director of Jesuit Refugee Services Malta. She reflects on Pope Benedict’s 2013 message to migrants and refugees…
Ms Camilleri says that one thing that struck her was the reference to the fact that many migrants and refugees suffer tremendously often before they leave and also along the way, but that their journey is accompanied always by a great hope: the hope they will be received, treated with respect and given the chance to have a new life.
The Pope – she says – talks about being able to build with hope and courage a new life in a new country, hoping that they will receive acceptance, solidarity and help.
“And what it makes me question is: how many refugees, how many migrants landing on our shores, having been through terrible experiences along the way, have their hope realised… how many find the hope and solidarity they are seeking”.
She speaks of the reality of refugees in Malta. She says “it is so difficult for them to be accepted. to Be treated with equal rights and equal dignity”.
Not everyone – she says – treats them with a lack of respect, but many people do. And real integration, which the Pope mentions in his message, is so hard. “And so I think the Pope’s message is an invitation to all of us to do everything that we can, that is in our power, to see that the hope of refugees and migrants is to the extent possible realised”.
Ms Camilleri speaks of the work of Jesuit Refugee Services in Malta where the Church plays a big part in receivng migrants and in providing services. She explains that before the government had any services in place the Diocesan Church had basic services to assist people arriving, and still today, she explains, the Church does much.
But she says “the Pope’s message is an invitation to see where we can do more and where we can improve the quality of what we do and how we do it; that we don’t simply provide charitable services but that we promote a culture where people are respected and treated with dignity. And where migrants are not the passive recipients of our charity because ‘we are good and we help them’, but because they have rights. They have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to receive the protection that they need”.
Ms Camilleri speaks of the women migrants and refugees who have often been exploited and abused during their journeys. And she mentions the issue of human trafficking and the need to tackle it.
She says we play a big responsibility in upholding the faith and the hope migrants and refugees carry with them . “We play a large part in the refugees’ hope for a life of dignity”. She says attitudes do have to change, as do perceptions: “we cannot continue to see migrants and refugees as a burden – they have lots to give”.
As a country, Ms Camilleri concludes: “Malta, we can benefit if we are open to receive the gifts migrants can bring”.