Australian Conference for Pastoral Agents of Migrants and Itinerant People
(Sydney, Australia, 17 November 2005)
 
Pastoral Care of People on the Move:  Challenges for the Church Today
 
Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao
President
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
 
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you the challenges facing the Church today in the world of human mobility, particularly in the pastoral field.
 
Human mobility is a very complex phenomenon. It would be enough to mention the various categories of people on the move entrusted to our Pontifical Council to demonstrate this: migrants, who traditionally include labor and professional migrants, diplomats, refugees and asylum seekers as well as foreign students. Then there are itinerant people, under which are classified seafarers, flight personnel and airport workers, nomads, circus and carnival people, people on the road, tourist and tour operators, and pilgrims.
 
Migrants are people who leave their homelands generally on a long-term basis, if not permanently, while itinerants do so temporarily or in a circular fashion although the distinction is not always clear-cut.  Among them, there are those who move or travel freely and voluntarily, while others are forced to do so. Forced and voluntary mobility are two poles in a continuum. There is a whole range of combinations in terms of degrees of voluntariness and compulsion between these two extremes.
 
Even the most voluntary human mobility implies a certain degree of uprooting: a person leaves his usual environment and enters a new one, where people may speak a different language, and do things differently, where customs, traditions, culture, mentality, food are unfamiliar… Quite a lot of human mobility, however, is forced. People would have stayed in their own countries if conditions had been different, but wars, violence, persecution, hunger and natural calamities have driven them out. Even without reaching these extremes, people leave their countries because they and their families can no longer live with dignity, well-being and security in their homeland due to poverty, violation of human rights, unequal opportunities, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and so on.
 
First challenge: The right to remain in one’s homeland
Because of the uprooting that it entails, any form of human mobility inevitably involves some kind of suffering often caused by injustice. This is why the Church has always upheld the right of every person to remain in his own country. The General Assembly of the United Nations itself issued a resolution inviting “governments, with the assistance of the international community, … to seek to make the option of remaining in one’s own country viable for all people, in particular through efforts to achieve sustainable development, leading to a better economic balance between developed and developing countries”. 
 
The fact that not all citizens of a country, but only some, feel compelled or are even forced to move is a glaring indication of injustice and social inequality that has to be remedied. “The right not to emigrate,” stated Pope John Paul II,  “[is] the right to live in peace and dignity in one's own country. By means of a farsighted local and national administration, more equitable trade and supportive international cooperation, it is possible for every country to guarantee its own population, in addition to freedom of expression and movement, the possibility to satisfy basic needs such as food, health care, work, housing and education; the frustration of these needs forces many into a position where their only option is to emigrate.”
 
The “society that the emigrant is often compelled to leave because of the hard conditions in which he is obliged to live” has to take its responsibilities and make every effort “to avoid the emigrant's enforced departure” .  It would also be necessary for the Church to review its preferential option for the poor in this regard and its fight against poverty specifically in the countries where people on the move originate.
 
The right to emigrate and to immigrate
Unfortunately, there are times, and today this is becoming more often, when it becomes necessary to leave one’s homeland. This, too, is a human right, stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The encyclical of Blessed John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, goes a step further and not only asserts the mere right to leave but also assures the right to immigrate into another country.
 
Many potential people on the move dream of going to a country that is “flowing with milk and honey”. They see it in television programs and hear about it from recruitment agents. They can also be enticed by relatives and friends who are already there and fed with erroneous information for various reasons. It is therefore important to provide these people with accurate information regarding the opportunities that really exist in their destination countries and those that do not, as well as the very real dangers that they have to face.
 
Second challenge: Finding an equilibrium between the states’ right to protect its borders and the right to immigrate
 
The Church recognizes the right of states to control their borders and the entry of persons in their territory – to guarantee security, basic human rights and freedoms – considering it in line with the protection of common the good. This, however, should not come in conflict with the right of people on the move to be treated always with the respect due to every human person. “The challenge is to combine the welcome that every human being deserves, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life”.
 
Third Challenge: Irregular migration
 
Severe immigration laws and restrictive immigration policies, including a limit to migrants’ access to social services, have not discouraged international migration. Regarding its irregular form, they have actually helped increase it and the considerable risk it involves.
 
Some have turned to smugglers to enter another country often in return for large sums of money. Yet, despite such investments, there are those who have lost their lives in rivers or the high seas, or on desert roads.
 
Those who finally manage to enter another country irregularly may find that, instead of the honest and well-paying job promised to them, they could end up exploited in prostitution, indentured labor, slave-like services or even the extraction of organs. Unwittingly, they may have become victims of trafficking in human beings.
 
Migrants in an irregular situation are vulnerable. Although they conserve their human dignity and rights, these are not guaranteed by law. Thus it can be easy to enjoy economic gains at their expense. Protecting the rights of irregular migrants, therefore, would be an important step forward in stopping migrant abuse and exploitation.
 
In this regard, it is important for States to ratify or accede to the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of their Families, which does not make any distinction between migrants in a regular and in an irregular situation when it comes to safeguarding their fundamental human rights.
 
Fourth challenge: Mobility of women and families
 
An important characteristic of contemporary human mobility is the increasing proportion of women involved in it. In many parts of the world, women’s rights absolutely need to be defended. Thus those of a migrant woman have to be safeguarded twice.
 
The right to migrate includes “the right to emigrate as a family” as well the right to remain with one's family. Family separation brings about problems for the stability of the couple and of the family, as well as for the education of the children. It is even worse when the absent spouse is the woman because, normally, it is mainly the wife and mother who takes care of the home and the upbringing of the children.
 
Christian communities in host countries are called to solidarity and burden sharing with migrant families. Papal documents appeal to them to accept immigrants so that no one is without a family in this world.  The Church should be that family, especially for the heavily burdened.
 
Sixth challenge: Welcome and solidarity
 
Already in the Old Testament God commanded that foreigners be treated well. In the Book of Exodus He commanded: “You will not molest or oppress aliens, for you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt” (Ex 22:20).
 
The Church, which “has always contemplated the image of Christ” in migrants, has great concerns for migrant workers, particularly for the serious problems they face: discrimination, racism and xenophobia, deception regarding contracts or conditions of work, treatment as tools and not persons, dangerous occupations, long working hours, pay lower than that of native workers for the same job, poor housing or none, and non-integration into social life. The message of Church documents and teaching to governments and others responsible for such situations is clear: They must protect all workers from these evils, even if they are migrants and not citizens, and work together with all nations to deal with labor migration at its roots, which means seeking a just global economic order.  Local churches have a special call to solidarity with migrant workers and to formation of public opinion to promote justice for them.  We have to consider these questions in developing our programs of education and pastoral care.
 
For programs in the field of human mobility to be effective, collaboration between the countries of origin and destination is necessary, as well as “adequate norms capable of harmonizing the various legislative provisions.” This will ensure the protection of the rights of people on the move and their families, as well as of the members of the local receiving population. Similarly, pastoral care in this area requires close cooperation between the Church of origin and the receiving Church.
 
Seventh challenge: Migration and its resulting mix of traditions, cultures and religions
 
The suffering that human mobility entails can be considered as the “birth-pangs of a new humanity”, a people without discrimination or frontiers”, “in which there is no longer slave or foreigner (cf. Gal 3,28)”.  Human mobility is indeed an occasion for people to “get to know one another and … for dialogue and communion or indeed integration at various levels”. Being instrumental in passing from monocultural to multicultural societies, migration can also be read as “a sign of the living presence of God in history … [and] a providential opportunity for the fulfillment of God’s plan for a universal communion”.
 
The intermingling of cultures, religions and beliefs caused by migration could be an enrichment, but it has also caused tension which has persisted, and considerably, in some cases. Antidote to this tension is dialogue, that leads to the recognition of values in common and an attitude of respect for differences. This “goes beyond mere tolerance and reaches sympathy,” and encourages “a mutual fecundation of cultures …, in a context of true understanding and benevolence.” The cultural practices which people on the move bring with them, however, should “not contravene either the universal ethical values inherent in the natural law or fundamental human rights.”
 
The Church has a special role in this area. Our experience is that the first step to “integration” into the local Church is to assure that people on the move feel at home there. This necessarily means being themselves in “language, liturgy, spirituality, particular traditions.” That is the path to the kind of “ecclesial integration, which enriches the Church of God and which is the fruit of the dynamic realism of the Incarnation of the Son of God.”  When not forced ahead nor held back, migrants make their own contribution to the catholicity of the Church, i.e., that “complete openness to the other, a readiness to share and to live in the same ecclesial communion.”  The teaching and experience of the Church here can be a lesson to civil societies that struggle with their inter-cultural challenges.
 
Eighth challenge: Extending pastoral care to the members of the household of faith and beyond
 
An authentic culture of welcome does not make any distinction in terms of nationality, color or creed. It is “fully based on love for Christ, in the certainty that good done out of love of God to one’s neighbour, especially the most needy, is done to Him”.
 
Thus we provide pastoral care to Catholics on the move, to help them live their faith through all circumstances of life. Thus the Church provides for “a specific kind of pastoral care due to diversity of language, origin, culture, ethnicity and tradition, or belonging to a particular Church sui iuris with its own rite”.  This also means that those of the Eastern Churches are to be given the opportunity to observe their own rite wherever they are, as far as possible, although they can also actively participate in the liturgical celebration of the Catholic Churches of other rites.
 
Catholic people on the move in countries where Christians are a minority could be true missionaries of the faith, especially through their life witness.  This is what Pope Paul VI stated, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, where he speaks specifically about the evangelizing mission of migrants in this beautiful and elegant passage:
 
Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization.
 
This testimony is bound to touch “people to whom Christ has never been proclaimed, or baptized people who do not practice, or people who live as nominal Christians but according to principles that are in no way Christian, or people who are seeking, and not without suffering, something or someone whom they sense but cannot name”. It is hence “a responsibility incumbent on immigrants in the country that receives them”. 
 
With people on the move of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities,  ecumenical dialogue is carried out, especially “ecumenism of daily life” which strengthens at the grassroots level bonds of unity and charity, far from “facile irenicism”, as well as the other extreme, “proselytism”.
 
For people on the move who are believers of other religions,  “the Church is also concerned with their human development and with the witness of Christian charity”. Thus we dialogue with them “in the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation”. It is therefore a dialogue based on our identity, giving origin to mutual respect and the discovery of one another’s human and religious values.
 
Thus dialogue and evangelization are not opposites, but inculturation is indispensable “as it is not possible to evangelize without entering into serious dialogue with cultures”. This means dialogue also with people on the move who have no religious convictions but are of goodwill.
 
Conclusion
 
The challenges in the pastoral care of people on the move present to the Church have several and varied underpinnings. They can however be summed up as follows: How to let the kingdom of God, love, communion, universal brotherhood and peace, that Christ wants to establish on earth, reach every person and community involved in the phenomenon of migration and itinerancy, so as to transform the world of human mobility and penetrate it with the love of Christ and communion of all who seek God with a sincere heart, which awaits us at the end of our earthly pilgrimage.
 
 
 ABBREVIATIONS
 
CA John Paul II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus, on the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, 1991.
CCL Code of Canon Law, 1983.
EMCC Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga MigrantesCcaritas Christi, on the Love of Christ for Migrants, 2004.
EN Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, on the Proclamation of the Gospel, 1975.
FC John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, on the Role of the Family in the Modern World, 1981.
GS Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, on the Church in the Modern World, 1965.
Message Unless otherwise stated, it refers to the Pontifical Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
PP  Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio, on the Development of Peoples, 1967.
PT John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in Terris, on Establishing Universal Peace, 1963.