Faithful to the Forcibly Displaced
H.E. Bishop Giorgio Bertin, OFM
It is a privilege to greet so many of ICMC’s national member organizations, partners, and supporters as we share with you the challenges our organization faced and the successes we achieved in 2021.
Last year was one of intense focus and effort to implement the recommendations which emerged from a one-year Strategic Review Process conducted in 2020 with the help of a Strategic Planning agency. This process aimed to assure the sustainability of ICMC during a period of challenge for many non-governmental organizations throughout the world and, above all, to keep migrants and refugees at the center of all our plans and services.
Our organization has played an important role in delivering compassionate and effective humanitarian assistance, protection, facilitation of resettlement, and other durable solutions in so many of the world’s ‘hotspots’. ICMC has never ceased to join with many other faith-based and civil society voices clamoring for just and fair treatment, policies, and laws relating to the millions of migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, and survivors of human trafficking.
Thus, it seemed highly appropriate to initiate our renewal and restructuring efforts in 2021, which coincided with the 70th anniversary of ICMC’s founding by the Venerable Pius XII. Pope Pius XII mandated the organization “to unite and organize existing Catholic associations and committees and to promote, reinforce and coordinate their projects and activities on behalf of migrants and refugees (Exsul Familia, 1952).”
ICMC has remained faithful to that mandate throughout its history. So, too, our organization has played an important role in delivering compassionate and effective humanitarian assistance, protection, facilitation of resettlement, and other durable solutions in so many of the world’s ‘hotspots’. ICMC has never ceased to join with many other faith-based and civil society voices clamoring for just and fair treatment, policies, and laws relating to the millions of migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, and survivors of human trafficking.
This brings to my mind the gratitude and challenge offered to ICMC by Pope Francis during its quadrennial Council meeting in March 2018:
“In order to set free those who today are oppressed, rejected, and enslaved, it is essential to promote open and sincere dialogue with government leaders, a dialogue that takes into account people’s actual experiences, sufferings and aspirations, in order to remind everyone once more of his or her responsibilities. […] Here too the Commission has been in the forefront, offering a valued and competent contribution to the development of much-needed new ways for the international community to respond with foresight to these phenomena typical of our time.”
Last year was one of intense focus and effort to implement the recommendations which emerged from a one-year Strategic Review Process conducted in 2020 […] This process aimed to assure the sustainability of ICMC during a period of challenge for many non-governmental organizations throughout the world and, above all, to keep migrants and refugees at the center of all our plans and services.
May the restructuring exercise in which ICMC has been engaged throughout the year of its 70th anniversary make it fit for purpose to live up to Pope Francis’ invitation.
In closing, I wish to thank all of you for your collaboration with our organization; no matter what partnership role you have played with us, your passion and concern for migrants and refugees is a rich source of inspiration for our own steadfastness in this field. May God continue to bless the work begun by ICMC seventy years ago.
Fulfilling Our Mission in 2021
Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo
The year 2021 continued to test the adaptability and perseverance of so many ICMC staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries. The pandemic of COVID-19, first envisioned as a short-term health challenge, soon became a longer-term trial as we struggled to find ways to maintain attentive and effective services to migrants and refugees, both through our direct operations in many countries as well as through our national member Episcopal Conferences and many other partners in all parts of the world.
But this challenge also revealed itself to be an opportunity to refine our technological skills much more quickly than anticipated in any of ICMC’s short- or long-term plans. We learned how to rely on creative new methods of remotely interviewing migrants and refugees whose needs could not be postponed, even during times of “lock-downs”, mandatory isolation, and infection among those responsible for service delivery and management.
Continuing and refining methods that we had initiated during 2020, we remotely convened our own staff to maintain ICMC’s high standards of accountability, oversight, monitoring, and evaluation. Also, through remote means, we convened and participated in strong advocacy for just and fair policies that recognize the unique dignity of every person forced to migrate and that respect their rights of equal and equitable access to the basic necessities of life, education, health care, decent and dignified work, and a future free of discrimination, violence, persecution, and abject poverty for themselves and their families.
Through remote means, we convened and participated in strong advocacy for just and fair policies that recognize the unique dignity of every person forced to migrate.
The needs presented by our beneficiaries seemed relentless, but I continued to be amazed by the determination, strength, and selflessness of staff, volunteers, and so many other partners as we encountered each challenge.
I think, for example, of our determination to maintain protection of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence within the migrant and refugee communities. Our staff in Malaysia, joined by the volunteers in our Refugee Protection Corps there, members of the very same refugee communities whom they served, in fact, were able to design and deliver video training sessions on peace building in the home, very small apartments, sometimes shared by survivors, perpetrators, and several children. These sessions included suggestions on how to preserve peace of mind and space despite their crowded conditions and emotionally charged situations. In the same program, we also facilitated remote livelihoods training that would enable the refugees to aim toward financial self-sufficiency once the “lock-downs” had ended. Through the numbers, and especially through the personal and institutional testimonies of ICMC beneficiaries and partners, you will note similar “success” stories achieved by so many ICMC direct operations, its deployment services to international agencies and national governments, its member organizations, and many other ICMC partners.
Thus, we continued to deliver a wide range of humanitarian assistance and protection in Jordan and Pakistan, assessment of refugee status claims in some 40 countries in the world, facilitation of resettlement to the U.S. for some 1,000 refugees and for many others resettled within the European Union, and capacity-building for integration of migrants and refugees in Greek municipalities. ICMC also quickly readied itself for a totally unforeseen challenge of assisting Afghan refugees who were evacuated to military bases in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, some of whom included former ICMC staff members who served our organization during its Afghan-based activities in the early years of this 21st century. All these activities took place against the backdrop of efforts to restructure and renew ICMC’s structures in conformity with the Strategic Review process in which we engaged during 2020. These initiatives included cost-saving, opening up more collaborative channels of communication between headquarters, field and affiliate offices, developing policies to ensure long-term sustainability of our organization, and strengthening the first-response efforts among ICMC national member organizations and their local diocesan and parish-based communities.
Please allow me to close by thanking our generous institutional and private donors who provided us with the encouragement and financial support to serve so many thousands of forcibly displaced people in great need.
I believe that, through its record of service during 2021, ICMC made a significant contribution to the vision articulated by Pope Francis in observance of the 2021 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, when he invited all people of good will to make a commitment toward an “Ever Wider ‘We’” by making “…no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”
Cover photo: Children at ICMC member Caritas Djibouti’s shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.