Populism fueling self-centered rejection of migrants, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — Indifference, fueled by populist rhetoric in today’s world, fans
the flames of rejection that threaten the rights and dignity of migrants, Pope
Francis said.

Refugees escaping
persecution, violence and poverty are often shunned and deemed as “unworthy
of our attention, a rival or someone to be bent to our will,” the pope
told participants of the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace.

with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centeredness and
amplified by populist demagoguery, what is needed is a change of attitude to
overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of
welcoming those who knock at our doors,” he said Feb. 21.

The Feb.
21-22 conference, “Integration
and Development: From Reaction to Action,” was organized by the Scalabrini
International Migration Network and sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for
Promoting Integral Human Development.

to the forum’s website, the conference focused on refugee crisis management
while aiming to “influence migration policies and practices in

In his
speech, the pope said millions
of people are being forced to flee their homelands due to
“conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence,
extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions.”

To confront
this challenge, he said, the church and civil society must have a “shared
response” of
welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.

access to “secure
humanitarian channels” — legal paths to safety — is crucial in
helping people who are
“fleeing conflicts and terrible persecutions,” but are often met with
rejection and indifference.

responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by
offering them decent and appropriate shelter,” the pope said.

Citing Pope
Benedict XVI, the pope said the need to defend the “inalienable rights”
of exiled and exploited men and women is a duty “from which no one can be

these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting
juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and
relevant,” the pope said.

he added, can only be guaranteed by ensuring “necessary conditions,”
such as fair access to fundamental goods, that offer “the possibility of
choice and growth.”

Francis also highlighted the need for integration, which is a “two-way process rooted essentially
in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness.”

Integration is different from assimilation, he
said, warning that
superimposing one culture over another has the “insidious and dangerous
risk of creating ghettos.”

At the same
time, he said, migrants are “duty bound not to close themselves off from
the culture and traditions of the receiving country” while
“respecting above all its laws.”

migrants, exiles and refugees “is today a responsibility, a duty we have
toward our brothers
and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice,
civility and solidarity,” the pope said.

to the migration crisis also involves addressing the root causes of the
situations that force people to flee, he said, pointing particularly to “unacceptable economic
inequality,” which violates “the principle of the universal destination
of the earth’s goods.”

group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources,” Pope
Francis said. “We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right
only to gather the remaining crumbs.”

Recognizing each person as a member of the same
human family, brother or sister created in God’s image, is key to ensuring a
proper response to the crisis, the pope insisted. “Fraternity is the most civil way of relating to
the reality of another person, which does not threaten us but engages,
reaffirms and enriches our individual identity.”

Francis called for “a change of attitude” in understanding the needs
of migrants and refugees, a
change that moves away from fear and indifference to a “culture of
encounter” that builds “a better, more just and fraternal

duty of solidarity is to the counter the throwaway culture and give greater
attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable,” he said.

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Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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