Vatican Aide: Seeking Asylum Requires Courage

Pope’s Message for Migrant and Refugee Day Released

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By Carmen Elena Villa

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2010 ( When citizens discover that their own country is guilty of violating their rights, and then make the effort to petition for asylum in another country, it should be considered an act of “courage,” says the undersecretary for the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers

Scalabrinian Father Gabriele Ferdinando Bentoglio said this today at the presentation of Benedict XVI’s message for the 97th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be observed Jan. 16. The message the Holy Father chose for the day is: “One Human Family.”
“They are victims of war and violence, obliged to face human conditions in which no one should live,” the priest explained. He added that asylum-seekers are not only victims of traumatic experiences, but that even after leaving their countries they are tormented with the knowledge that their families are still in areas of danger.
Father Bentoglio reported that there are close to 15 million refugees under the care of the United Nations: 10.4 million are under the direct responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while the remaining 4.8 are under the care of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
The priest then underlined how important it is that the Church re-establish values and human dignity, “especially through the promotion of a culture of encounter and respect that heals wounds suffered and promises new horizons of integration, security and peace.”
“The challenge consists in creating areas of tolerance, hope, healing, protection in which dramas and tragedies — already experienced for too long in the past and also in recent times — never happen again,” said the undersecretary.
Father Bentoglio also criticized the “behavior dictated by fear of the foreigner” in the receiving countries, where asylum-seekers often face discrimination. He said these attitudes show a “disparity between the commitments made and the actions” of the nations.
He lamented that those who “take a chance” to leave their situation, often resorting to unsafe methods to arrive to the receiving country, “often find themselves treated with prejudices.”
Given these challenges, the undersecretary pointed out how the Pope’s message “touches on one of the strongest subjects of the age-old Christian experience, that of reception,” which must be translated “into hospitality, compassion and the quest for equality.”
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