Church Defends Modernity's New Slaves

Conference Considers Challenge of Migration in Asia

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BANGKOK, Thailand, NOV. 19, 2008 ( The Church has to pave new paths of hope for the modern types of slaveries being created by the phenomenon of migration, a Vatican conference concluded.

This was one of 11 specific recommendations that came from a Nov. 6-8 conference, organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers and the Thai episcopal conference. The conference theme was «Towards a Better Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees in Asia at the Dawn of the Third Millennium.

On the first day of the conference, participants were informed that Asia hosts nearly 25% of the 200 million international migrants worldwide.

The continent includes countries that promote migrant worker emigration, and others that are receiving significant numbers of these workers. There are also countries through which migrants travel. The region annually receives some $114 billion in migrants’ remittances, which is nearly 30% of all such remittances worldwide.

It was proposed that Asia may well be one of the regions of the world most exposed to the degrading consequences of migratory movements.

Five major concerns were cited: the defense of family unity and well-being, promoting alternatives to forced migration, addressing the positives and the negatives of labor migration, fighting human trafficking and protecting victims, and managing the developmental impacts of migration.

What to do

The dicastery and episcopal conference concluded the conference with a series of recommendations, many of which highlighted the important role of the Church in ministering to migrants.

«In welcoming and accompanying the migrant, the Church has indeed a great possibility to also contribute to change the public mind and the societal patterns,» the final statement affirmed. «With such a holistic-integral approach and based on its social teaching, the Church is well positioned to offer a true vision of life. Its prophetic stand and solidarity with the migrant victim has to generate potential to be the catalyst in working together with people of all religions and visions for the benefit of the migrants and the entire human family.»

The final recommendations recalled that migration should not be considered solely from an economic standpoint, and called for ethics to be involved «in formulating and regulating national policies.»

The conference participants also emphasized the importance of migrants’ families, and the situations of children who are raised by grandparents or relatives.

«Dialogue, solidarity and collaboration at the international level should promote the burning issue of reuniting families of migrants and of recognizing their rights as families,» the statement recommended.

It also called for close collaboration between the Churches in both the countries of origin and destination.

The final statement concluded by citing words from Pope John Paul II on solidarity: «Solidarity is the Christian response, both personal; and collective, also for globalization; it begins in everyone’s heart, when he considers the other — and not only the poor — a brother, a sister, rather even more, because he is a member of the Body of Christ itself. And in exercising responsibility, no one can take my place in doing what I can do. Let each one of us therefore feel called to respond personally.»

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