World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2015: “More decisive and constructive action is required”, says Pope Francis

Geneva, 18 January 2015 - On the occasion of World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the International Catholic Migration Commission underscores two urgent challenges that the world faces today: the need for more international cooperation and collaborative governance, and the need to establish new models of diverse, yet stable, societies in which social and economic development can take place.

A young Syrian refugee girl in Lebanon.A young Syrian refugee girl in Lebanon. Photo credit: UNHCR Today we are calling for the need to respect diversity and build a common space where people can live together in spite of their differences, whether cultural, religious, social, or economic. Any failure in truly recognizing “the other” impedes true human development, social cohesion and progress.

We live in a context of constantly changing international relations, shifting economies, and humanitarian challenges of growing complexity. Referring to international cooperation to deal with the phenomenon of migration, Pope Francis emphasizes that “a more decisive and constructive action is required, one which relies on a universal network of cooperation, based on safeguarding the dignity and centrality of every human person.”

Syria is the biggest refugee crisis in the world today. As UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has stated, “Syria has become the defining humanitarian challenge of our time”. Upon returning from a recent visit to Syria, one of our colleagues said: “You can’t imagine how many Syrian children are in the street asking for money or trying to sell all sorts of items in order to survive. I have heard of 10-month old babies without parents, with no one to support them, abandoned in the street. The international community keeps saying that the solution is political. The only thing you see in Syria today is people dying.”

Questions immediately come to mind: what is the international community doing for these children? Where is the dignity and centrality of every human person that Pope Francis is talking about? What can we do, each of us, as individuals and societies?

Pope Francis reminds us that we are called, as people and societies, to “share our resources, and occasionally to give up something of our acquired riches.” Each of us, and each country, has the capacity to respond in so many ways. Prayer is an important response. So is advocacy: for greater assistance and protection—and proper political solutions—for people uprooted in their own countries and across borders, and for decent asylum, resettlement and other humanitarian admissions. In this regard, what we need most are concrete initiatives, whether individual or collective, to support refugees and migrants upon arrival, facilitate their integration into their host country, help them find education and employment, and help them build a future full of social and economic opportunities.

This Sunday, Churches all around the world will read a biblical passage in which God himself calls to one who is sleeping – who slowly, but clearly, responds, “Here I am Lord, your servant is listening.” May we, each of us, also listen and respond, clearly.