Final Statement of Asia Migration Congress

«The Refugee Situation Has to Change»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

BANGKOK, Thailand, NOV. 19, 2008 ( Here is the final document released at the end of the 1st Asian Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, held Nov. 6-8 in Bangkok. The theme was «Toward a Better Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees in Asia at the Dawn of the Third Millennium.»

The meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers in cooperation with the Thai Episcopal Commission for Human Mobility.

* * *

I. The Event

The Asian Meeting on the theme “Towards a Better Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees in Asia at the Dawn of the Third Millennium” has just been held in Bangkok, from the 6th to 8th November 2008. This event organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People with the cooperation of the Thai Bishops’ Commission for Human Mobility, brought together 34 participants, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Religious, and Lay people from 13 countries (Bangladesh, Brunei, China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam).

The meeting started with the Eucharistic Concelebration presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu. Afterwards warm welcoming introductions were made by His Eminence the Archbishop of Bangkok, His Excellency Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Apostolic Nuncio in Thailand, and His Excellency Msgr. Philip Banchong Chaiyara, President of the Thai Bishops’ Commission for Human Mobility.
A general vision of the situation of migrants, refugees and IDPs in Asia was presented by Dr. Johan Ketelers, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission. He highlighted how the migration situation in Asia mirrors nearly all of the changing aspects related to migration in general. Asia hosts nearly one quarter of the 200 million international migrants worldwide and includes countries that promote migrant workers emigration, and others that are receiving important numbers of these people. There are also countries through which migrants transit. The region furthermore receives annually almost US $114 billion in migrants remittances, which is nearly 30% of all such remittances worldwide. The speaker pointed out that the general focus on migration in Asia has been on labour market values whereby risk and individual security issues are dramatically increasing. He pointed at various indicators showing that Asia may well be one of the regions of the world most exposed to the human degrading consequences of migratory movements. Five major concerns were developed and analysed that is: the defence of the family unity and well being, promoting alternatives to forced migration, addressing the positives and the negatives of labour migration, fighting human trafficking and protecting victims, managing developmental impacts of migration.

After a general discussion, Cardinal Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People offered a reflexction and an historical perspective of the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi by speaking on the Church’s analysis of the phenomenon of migration emanating from the greatest movement of people at any time in history that involves actually over 200 million people and affects the structure of our society, touching our social, cultural, political, economic religious and pastoral realities. EMCC aims to update the Church’s vision and discipline of the pastoral care of migrants and provides an ecclesial response to the new apostolic needs of migrants using their migratory experience. He stressed the importance of dialogue, in this context, in Asia, for the challenges and opportunities that exist for both migrants and the receiving countries for human enrichment, and also for the integration of these people into welcoming and supportive environments.

Brother Anthony Rogers, Executive Secretary of FABC Office for Human Development, later on introduced the issues of migration and new slaveries in Asia. The Church also in this continent is challenged by the causes of migrations and the emergence of new forms of slaveries affecting millions of migrants and refugees and their families. New slavery leads vulnerable people to deshumanising conditions that horribly distort the image of human persons denying their rights as persons and communities, becoming mere economic commodities to be bought and sold by undemocratic governments and ruthless market forces. They range from children as street-beggars and child soldiers, women and children trafficked into prostitution, cheap or forced labour in homes, factories, plantations to those in prisons, detention centres and refugee camps.

We have to propose to all the people in Asia our integral, holistic vision of life as a common Road to Hope, building an alliance, a new network of Solidarity to combat this human tragedy: a new pastoral care for and with the migrants, through evangelization and advocacy against the culture of death and soulless materialism and all new forms of slavery, foretelling the living presence and action of God, in our midst.

The second day started, after the Eucharistic Concelebration presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Renato R. Martino, with a round table on the participant’s experiences on the pastoral care of migrants moderated by Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas and followed by two workshops. The first one on the pastoral care of migrants and the other for the apostolic attention of refugees. This was followed by the conference of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Council, which organised this meeting, on the topic of new itineraries to follow concerning refugees and migrants issues.

The Church today is guided in its commitment to refugees, displaced and trafficked people not only by the teaching of the Gospel but also by the permanent principles of her social doctrine. Her mission to build an awareness that the refugee situation has to change, has not ceased so that it appeals again and again to the International Community in their favour and calls for solidarity and collaboration from Christians and persons of goodwill to protect the life and dignity of the human person. Welcome is a fundamental characteristic of pastoral ministry among refugees and IDPs and a way of living and of sharing. In this, the local Church must be of great support. In fact, the receiving local Church must be involved with the people on the move in a pastoral way and pay attention to the formation of their pastoral agents, with participation of the laity. There must be a collaboration among local Churches together with Catholic charitable organizations. A common action in favour of refugees, IDPs and victims of human trafficking leads also to a cooperation with the different Churches and ecclesial Communities, with other religions, in response to the challenge of suffering and oppression. This is a “sign of hope for a world that ardently desires justice, freedom, truth and solidarity, that is peace and harmony”.

The last day also started with the Eucharistic Concelebration presided over by H.E. Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences. It was followed by a round table moderated by Archbishop Leo Cornelio on the experiences of the pastoral care of refugees, IDPs, from the part of selected participants. His Excellency Archbishop Orlando Quevedo finally gave the FABC perspective on the pastoral care of migrants and refugees. The Congress ended with the presentation and the approval of the Conclusions and Recommendations contained in the Final Document. The President of the PCPCMIP closed the Congress thanking everyone for the excellent effort done to realize this first Asian Congress on a renewal pastoral care for migrants and refugees.

II. Conclusions

1. Sign of the times

The phenomenon of migration is a human reality that is here to stay. Though the decision to migrate
very often mirrors the fundamental hope for new life opportunities and perspectives, it also leaves spaces of insecurity, destabilisation and threat to many societies in their development. Labour migration in Asia and out of Asia has to some extent become part of the culture, but is deeply affecting and fragilising especially the families. Two core realties need to be given full focus in the context of Asia and to be rooted firmly in the migration debate: the family and the human rights.

1.1 The fragilisation of families is indeed perceived to be among the highest social costs of migration. Migrant families are under heavy pressure. They are de-uniting to search for better perspectives while children are being brought up by single parent households, grandparents or relatives. Gaps were identified in the recognition of the family unity as essential for social cohesion and in the respect for families and family unity as a value to be prioritised and foreseen in international legislation. There is also a clear need to do further research on the trends, effects, and alternatives regarding the separation and the de-unification of families in countries of both origin and destination, including the longer-term effects on societies in which children are raised at distance from their parents as well as the ways to reduce obstacles and increase incentives to voluntary and sustainable return home. A very specific concern has been expressed also on the growing number of stateless persons, including children.

1.2 Promoting alternatives to forced migration and offering the choice to not migrate is the right of a person “to be able to achieve his rights and satisfy his legitimate demands in his own country.” (“Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi” No. 29). Essential gaps in this field are the missing incentives to not migrate and policies that reverse and reduce the three related dependencies: the one of sending countries on what is actually referred to as their labour “export industry”; of receiving countries on “imported” foreign labour, and of migrants and their families on jobs (and remittances from) abroad.

1.3 When addressing the positives and negatives of labour migration, it is reminded that there are some 22 million migrant workers in Asia, that the female-to-male ratio often varies depending on the country of origin but that female migrants are triply vulnerable because they are (1) foreigners; (2) women living in cultures that for the most part continue to be heavily male-oriented, and (3) often working in domestic or other jobs that are out of view. It has furthermore pointed out that existing frameworks, both legal and social, are found to be inadequate to manage the human mobility and to guarantee the necessary protection for the migrant worker. Furthermore, concepts that intend to organize migration to serve specific economic needs (‘migration choisie’) cannot be the right carriers because they tend to reduce the human person to an economic commodity and necessity and because they deny the human value and dignity of all the migrants.

1.4 The negative aspects of migration linked to economic globalization, have also fostered new forms of slavery: these are just external symptoms and manifestations of a grave inner disorder. Three types of regulatory approaches in fighting human trafficking, forced labour and protecting victims have been presented: prevention strategies aimed at bringing about greater clarity and awareness about human trafficking; prosecution mandates concerned with punishing traffickers; and protection regimes dealing with the upholding of the rights of trafficking survivors through provision of services ranging from psycho-social counselling, legal aid, and livelihood/reintegration assistance, especially if victims are collaborating to identify the traffickers. The gaps which have been highlighted mainly have focused the rescue and the protection of victims, the possibilities for safe and legal migration and the obvious gap in political willingness to secure protection and solve the problems linked to human mobility.

1.5 The high value of remittances has also been highlighted when presenting the link today established at intergovernmental level between migration and development. This link is found to be of great importance if aiming at an integral, holistic concept of development. There is indeed a need to take into consideration the human rights of all migrants workers and the members of their families. The main gaps identified have targeted the balance in the “win-win-win” vision of migration which positively and equally contributes to the development of the sending countries, the receiving ones and the migrants themselves. A second major gap indicated has to be found at the quality management level of this remittance income and more specifically in the need to foresee a longer term planning of these amounts not to serve solely immediate needs.

1.6 Migration invites to a specific pastoral care to be realized together with the ordinary, territorial, parochial pastoral care, as well as to triple dialogue: with the migrants and the refugees, with those who are poor and peripheral in Asian societies, with the rich mosaic of cultures, languages and the ancient religious traditions of Asia. The great majority of the migrants in Asia are not Christians but this triple dialogue is the matrix where we situate this specific pastoral care.

2. No one is a stranger in the Church

2.1 No one is a stranger in the Church because “she embraces every nation, race, people and tongue” (Rev. 7:9) Moreover, what the Church does in favour of migrants, refugees and internally displaced is part of its mission. However, “An ecclesial community which gives hospitality to strangers is a sign of contradiction, a place where joy and pain, cries and peace are closely interwoven. This becomes particularly visible in societies that are hostile to those who are welcomed. To offer this hospitality means to repeatedly rethink and reshape priorities.” (from H.E. Archbishop Marchetto’s speech during the Congress).

2.2 Over the past decades, the Church has repeatedly expressed its concern for the well being of all migrants and the members of their families, for preserving human dignity in a world marked by other priorities. The importance of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and of “Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi” have been repeatedly mentioned as the useful references and tools. Strong suggestions have been made to contextualize these teachings in the various national environments.

2.3 Migration is a new ‘prophetic’ area which the church must prioritise. The pilgrim, migrant Church’s journeys include spiritual, psychological as well as geographic movements. They are journeys from despair to hope, from disruption to respect, from rejection to welcome, journeys into new sociological and very often hostile environments, journeys of gradual integration (not assimilation) based on mutual respect and trust, into the host Church and societies. This can only be secured when an authentic culture of welcome has been installed. It has been highlighted that much of this in daily Church reality is of the responsibility of the local Churches in dialogue together with and with the help of those of origin. It is therefore essential that priests, religious and lay people are adequately prepared for this specific apostolate which requires appropriate training and formation.

2.4 It is obvious that the mission of the Church is not merely humanitarian or philanthropic but that it is soteriological, salvific, which it should always motivate and energize our pastoral care of migrants and refugees and it is a fundamental element of “Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi”. Moreover the spirituality of communion of the Instruction has already been the driving engine for many meetings in Asia as organized by the FABC.

III. Specific Recommendations

3.1 Migrants are in general continuously challenged and put at risk which increases the role
and responsibility of the Church to deploy a culture of welcome. 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. With such 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 vision for the benefit of the migrants and the entire human family.

3.2 Migration should not be looked upon from an economic perspective solely but it is felt that the need for an ethical viewpoint is essential in formulating and regulating national policies. We therefore appeal to the leaders of the nations to also seriously address the underlying causes of poverty, corruption and injustice. Dialogue, solidarity and collaboration between governments of peoples of predominantly different religions will also go a long way to make migrants and refugees feel at home in the countries of their new residence.

3.3 The presentation of relevant Church responses has covered a wide variety of commitments including sacramental and religious ministry, psychosocial and welfare services as well as the links between sending and receiving Churches and advocacy work. Protection, prevention, advocacy and education are also key expressions of pastoral care and it has become clear that the various countries are at different levels of a learning and implementation process, due to the specifics of the migration realities, the socio-political environment and the historical phases of migration in a certain country. This is considered another invitation to the Church to continuously search for solutions and appropriate pastoral responses to the various and complex problems and situations that migrants go through. In listening well to them, it becomes even clear that migrants are our mentors in this process and that such pastoral perspective contributes to the ‘aggiornamento’ and the renewal of the Church.

3.4 The pastors of the Church must continue to give priority to reaching out to those adversely affected by voluntary and forced migration. This seems possible with a new missionary zeal also among the laity. Its holistic formation is therefore a prerequisite.

3.5 The need to ‘translate’ the experiences of migrants into a theological vision is considered a necessity. This vision must be incarnated in new responses in the field of specific pastoral care, formation of pastoral agents and in parochial and operational response models. It will serve as a basis for the ongoing education, provision of services and in responding to the victims of voluntary and forced migration.

3.6 The setting up of a family ministry for migrants at the churches of origin and destination is an imperative. This has to be done in dialogue with migrant workers which will reveal their real pastoral situation, their priority needs and the ways by which effective response can be given. When migrants go abroad the local Church of origin still has the task of helping maintain the communion and solidarity with their family. The Church of arrival has to provide a similar ministry of care and service, which begins with a “ministry of welcome”. It is, in this field of collaboration, also recommended that priests from the country of origin are appointed by the Bishops of the Churches of arrival, to accompany migrants and to contribute to provide pastoral care in the host countries. The whole of the faith formation for migrants and refugees should be directed towards a spirituality of communion especially in the family.

3.7 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.

3.8 New slaveries are also caused by migration and cannot be easily eradicated, but the Church has to courageously pave new paths to a road of hope, to those in pain and despair, using also its capacity of advocacy and networking.

3.9 The sending Church has the duty to inform the migrants on the situations they may be facing, and to form and to empower them to become evangelizers themselves, confident that a true vision of life is founded on the Gospel.

3.10 The need for exploring more formal and regular processes for collaboration and coordination among Church institutions on migration and development at the various national, regional and international levels has been emphasized. The complementarity of the Church organizations, religious congregations and ecclesial movements has been recognized to offer greater potential. Effective implementation of solutions will easier be done when developing the synergies in a network of alliances.

3.11 International decision makers need to be asked to act determinedly on the reciprocity of rights to ensure that peoples of different religions practice them freely and safely everywhere.

It has been finally remembered the importance of personal responses as far as solidarity is concerned, citing the following words of Pope John Paul II:

“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.” (Pope John Paul II, «Centesimus Annus,» No. 10: AAS LXXXIII (1991) 805).

Rome, Nov. 18, 2008

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation