Immigration an Opportunity for Interreligious Dialogue, Says Vatican Aide

Archbishop Hamao Addresses Conference in Malaysia

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 7, 2002 ( The phenomenon of immigration “has opened a new way for interreligious dialogue,” says the president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

Japanese Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao expressed this conviction when he addressed a congress last week in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, organized by the Human Development Office of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

From knowledge of the “fundamental truth” that we are all “children of God,” comes “the duty to treat every person, whether or not he is a Christian, in respect of human dignity,” the archbishop emphasized.

Believers of various religions should consider “dialogue as a primary way to follow,” an indispensable instrument to “remove the barriers of mistrust and prejudice,” Archbishop Hamao exhorted.

While encouraging Christians to continue patiently in the “not easy” way of dialogue, he also explained that such dialogue “must not be carried out in religious indifference.” It is indispensable that Christians “give a clear testimony of their own faith,” the archbishop added.

Focusing on illegal immigrants and those seeking asylum, Archbishop Hamao stressed that human dignity “never disappears.”

It is the Church’s task to listen to these people in difficulty, in order to “know their situation properly, and to provide for the satisfaction of their fundamental needs,” he said.

The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in full agreement with Gospel teachings, proclaims the right of each one to life,” a right that goes beyond any law and therefore must be recognized for “illegal immigrants,” the archbishop said.

This does not, however, mean to be opposed or to deny “the right of every ordered and civilized community to protect its own territory,” the archbishop continued.

Moreover, “Christian solidarity makes it necessary to care for human beings, especially young people who are unable to defend themselves because of the lack of a juridical status to protect them, or because “they don’t know the language of the country in which they have been forced to seek refuge,” he added.

In regard to the acceptance of immigrants, Archbishop Hamao said that nations should not look exclusively to the mere defense of their own well-being,” but commit themselves to guarantee immigrants’ right “to live with their families and preserve and develop their own cultural and religious inheritance.”

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