Migration is not a problem, it is an opportunity

The 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees is being celebrated in Spain with a particular emphasis on the work that the Spanish Church is already doing in this task, which is at the heart of Pope Francis' pontificate.

Maria José Atienza-September 20, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes

On Sunday, September 25, the Church celebrates the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. One of the first days to be celebrated in the Church, it was born to accompany those Catholics who found themselves in areas of difficult pastoral care or outside their communities.

Today, more than a century later, as Xabier Gómez points out, director of the Department of Migration of the Spanish Episcopal Conference "has a much broader perspective". This year, moreover, the EEC wanted to emphasize the localization and concreteness of the work with migrants and with them; hence the motto of the Day "Building the future with migrants and refugees" is added to the adverb "...".here"Here we build a future with migrants and refugees". A way, along with the graphic expression of the locator that can be seen on the posters for this day, to make it present and evident that "the Church in Spain is already building that future with migrants," as Gomez points out. Likewise, he invites a commitment "from each place where this poster is placed, each parish or community..."

An opportunity, not a danger

Xabier Gómez pointed out that one of the main concerns of the pastoral ministry is "the need to stop looking at migrants as strangers; otherwise we will not have a relationship of equals with them, of brothers, of neighbors".

This is a reality that we see every day, especially in countries such as Spain: migrants now make up a large number of our fellow citizens and, therefore, of parishioners in parishes and faith communities.

In this sense, Gómez emphasized, in "our Christian communities we have an important idea to promote missionary communities that help us to understand that migration is not a problem, but an opportunity. Migrants revitalize our communities, parishes and consecrated life.

In addition to the faithful, men and women of various nationalities of origin or first generation Spaniards are those who attend Spanish seminaries, religious orders... etc.

With an eye not only on this day, but also on the whole development of life, for Xabier Gómez, it is very important "to transmit positive narratives. The reality is that migrants contribute much more positive things when they are well integrated than negative things. It is important to emphasize what migrants bring".

Rejection of poverty rather than race

One of the ideas that the director of the Secretariat for Migration of the EEC wanted to highlight is that of working with migrants, "not only to be spokespersons but to listen to what migrants are looking for and to build that future with them". As the Pope Francis' message for this Migrants and Refugees Day "Building the future with migrants and refugees also means recognizing and valuing what each of them can contribute to the building process."

To this end, he stressed the need to facilitate the full integration of migrants, especially with regard to obtaining work permits and citizenship.

In fact, Gómez pointed out, "more than racism, the fear or rejection of migrants is motivated by their situation of poverty or social exclusion, not by race".

In this line, he wanted to emphasize that, when working for full inclusion, to avoid the chronification of poverty of these migrants, "there are results".

Addressing the reality of migration, Xabier Gómez pointed out, is not easy. Today's world is marked by migratory flows due to different causes: wars, climate displacement, refugees, poverty... which have changed the landscape of aging continents such as those that make up the nations of the West.

"Migrations reflect the fact that everything is connected, as the Pope reminds us in Laudato SiIn this matter, "pretending to apply simple recipes for a complex problem is complicated," said Gómez.

Positive experiences

The 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees It has also been a time to learn about the experiences and stories of many of these people who make up our social and faith communities and who must find a place of welcome and integration in the Church. This was also pointed out by the Spanish Bishops in their message for this day in which they point out "the challenge of continuing to build hospitable communities in all aspects, not delegating or encapsulating attention to migrants as a peripheral aspect of pastoral care, but grafting it onto catechesis, preaching, prayer and management".

For the Church, Xabier Gomez stressed, "the work with migrants and displaced persons is the same for those who come from Ukraine as for those who arrive on a boat".

More and more in our parishes and communities we see that these people not only receive help but give the best of themselves and support, with their work or their gifts, the various fields of pastoral work, "revitalizing and rejuvenating our masses and our villages".

In this regard, the director of the Migration Department of the EEC wanted to highlight the example of the Rural World Table in which many families who come to our country are facilitated access to villages with small populations, which has led to the revitalization of areas with aging populations.

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