Integration of Immigrants Requires Balance, Says Pope

Warns of Extremes, From Assimilation to Apartheid

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2004 ( Social integration of immigrants calls for finding «the proper balance between respect for their own identity and recognition of that of others,» says John Paul II.

The Pope proposes this in his message for the forthcoming World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be observed Jan. 16, with the theme «Intercultural Integration.»

The message calls for the exclusion of «assimilationist models» that aim to homogenize culture differences, as well as the avoidance of forms of marginalization that «can even arrive at the choice of apartheid.»

In addressing the challenge of immigration faced by the world, the Holy Father states that «Many people use this word to denote the need for immigrants to be truly incorporated in the host country, but neither the content of this concept nor its practice is easy to define.»

For John Paul II, integration is not «assimilation,» which «leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity. Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret,’ to being open to them in order to welcome their valid aspects and thus contribute to knowing each one better.»

«In this process the migrant is intent on taking the necessary steps towards social inclusion, such as learning the national language and complying with the laws and requirements at work, so as to avoid the occurrence of exasperated differentiation,» the Pope adds.

The papal message, presented to the press by Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, acknowledges that «immigrants often become more aware of who they are, especially when they miss the persons and values that are important to them.»

Therefore, in «our society, characterized by the global phenomenon of migration, individuals must seek the proper balance between respect for their own identity and recognition of that of others,» the Holy Father continues.

«Indeed, it is necessary to recognize the legitimate plurality of cultures present in a country, in harmony with the preservation of law and order, on which depend social peace and the freedom of citizens,» he stresses.

The Pope emphasizes that «it is essential to exclude on the one hand assimilationist models that tend to transform those who are different into their own copy, and on the other, models of marginalization of immigrants, with attitudes that can even arrive at the choice of apartheid.»

«The way to take is the path of genuine integration with an open outlook that refuses to consider solely the differences between immigrants and the local people,» John Paul II states.

Thus the need arises «for a dialogue between people of different cultures in a context of pluralism that goes beyond mere tolerance and reaches sympathy,» he adds.

«A simple juxtaposition of groups of migrants and locals tends to encourage a reciprocal closure between cultures, or the establishment, among them, of relations that are merely superficial or tolerant,» he warns.

«It will, of course, be necessary to combine the principle of respect for cultural differences with the protection of values that are in common and inalienable, because they are founded on universal human rights,» the Pontiff explains.

In this climate of dialogue, «Christians cannot give up proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to all creation,» he writes. «Obviously, they must do so with respect for the conscience of others, always resorting to the method of charity, as St Paul had already recommended to the early Christians.»

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