Collaboration among people of different faiths key to addressing migration challenges

Geneva, 14 December 2017 - ICMC Secretary General called for a sincere effort to achieve mutual understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths to promote peace and human development.

“I firmly believe that dialogue and practical cooperation among Christians and Muslims, and all people of faith and of good will, can eventually eliminate the tensions arising from a lack of direct familiarity with people whose cultures, faith traditions, and ethnic identities may differ from our own,” said Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC).

Panelists at the migration and human solidarity event in the UNMsgr. Vitillo addressed the importance of deepening dialogue between Christians and Muslims in response to forced migration resulting from war, insecurity and climate change. Photo: ICMC At a panel discussion held at the UN Office in Geneva on 14 December, Msgr. Vitillo addressed the importance of deepening dialogue between Christians and Muslims in response to forced migration resulting from war, insecurity and climate change.

Successful efforts in interfaith dialogue date back to as early as Saint Francis of Assisi, Msgr. Vitillo said. In the 13th century, Francis reclaimed “a space for encounter, dialogue, mutual respect, peace and reconciliation” with a Muslim leader in Egypt.

In the early 1960s, the Second Vatican Council declared that “...the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims.” The Council “urged that a since effort be made to achieve mutual understanding.”

In recent times, Pope Francis “has spared no effort to join other religious leaders in a just and equitable response to forced displacement of peoples.”

In countries like Malaysia, Jordan and Pakistan, ICMC Christian and Muslim staff work side by side. “I believe that our everyday collaboration among people of different faith communities already is promoting integral human development,” Msgr. Vitillo said.

The panel discussion, entitled “Migration and human solidarity, a challenge and an opportunity for Europe and the MENA region”, was organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (GCHRAGD).

In a joint statement adopted at the end of the event, panelists noted that “60% or more of refugees worldwide are currently of Muslim origin” and warned “against defamatory conflation between terrorism and refugees and asylum-seekers.” The statement equally deplores “all similar attempts to criminalize undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers regardless of religion, ethnicity, culture, nationality and geographic origin.”

The event saw the participation among others of Mr. Eduard Rodier, Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Europe Office; Ms. Areti Sianni, Senior Policy Advisor for the MENA Bureau of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR); and Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, GCHRAGD Chairman.    

• Read Msgr. Vitillo’s intervention below.