Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave the keynote address November 16, 2018, at the Conference on Global Initiatives in Refugee and Migrant Education, Manhattan College, New York City. Following is his speech on “The Moral and Ethical Responsibilities of Universities in Response to the Global Realities of Migrants and Refugees.”
Distinguished Experts on Migrants and Refugees,
Dear Students and Friends,
I am very happy to join you today for the Conference on Global Initiatives in Refugee and Migrant Education and to speak about the moral and ethical responsibilities of universities in response to the global realities of migrants and refugees.
I thank the Refugee and Migrant Education Network, Manhattan College, Being the Blessing, the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow and the Center for Interreligious Understanding for sponsoring this needed conversation and for inviting me to participate in it.
Just over a year ago, some of you were able to participate in the international conference at the Gregorian University in Rome dedicated to the responsibility and responses of universities to the situation of migrants and refugees, at the conclusion of which Pope Francis enthusiastically welcomed the participants to an audience in the Sala del Concistoro in the Apostolic Palace.
During his remarks, the Holy Father first talked briefly about the general moral and ethical duties of Catholic Universities, saying that an essential aspect of Catholic higher education is to form the entire community of professors, students, administrators, employees and alumni toward authentic social responsibility to help build a more just and human world.
The kerygma, as the Holy Father wrote in his programmatic apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, has a clear social content and an immediate moral implication centered on charity, because Christ has redeemed not only individuals but the social relations among them. For that reason, our loving response to God cannot be merely small personal gestures to particular persons in need, random acts of kindness or what he phrases as “charity à la carte.” Rather, because Jesus came to announce and inaugurate the kingdom of God, he summons us to impact the world as salt, light, and leaven, seeking to help society grow in fraternity, justice, peace, and reverence for each other’s dignity (EG 177-181).
No document of the Catholic Church, in my opinion, expresses with such vividness and passion the inseparable divine and human elements of the Catholic faith than the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, which, in its celebrated opening paragraph expresses that bond with these soaring words:
“The joys and the hopes, the grief and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.”
In his aforementioned address to the International Federation of Catholic Universities, Pope Francis asked Catholic universities to look at the complex, global reality of migration today from the illuminative lens of Catholic Social Doctrine and to ask their help in three specific areas: first, research; second, facilitation of the education of migrants and refugees at various levels and training pastoral workers to help address the needs of people on the move; and third, social promotion of the cause of migrants and refugees.
After such a long introduction, my talk will consist of two main parts: first, I shall examine the moral and ethical responsibilities of Catholic universities in general; second, I shall try to illustrate how those principles apply to the three services that Pope Francis wants Catholic universities to provide, namely, research, education, and social promotion. After that, I look forward to hearing the responses of Dr. Mehnaz Afridi and Rabbi Marc Klein and engaging in dialogue with them and you.
I. The Moral and Ethical Responsibilities of Catholic Universities
The Catholic approach to education has always involved far more than mere classroom instruction, or worse, rote memorization. That schools and later universities literally evolved from sacristies give us the idea that education aims to form the entire person in a holistic way, not only in the profane sciences but also spiritually and morally.
Catholic universities are dedicated not just to developing students’ cognitive faculties, but to forming their freedom in connection with the true and the good, to recognizing their own and others’ dignity and to helping them to use their knowledge in service. Faculty are more than just teachers; they’re “educators,” both forming minds and literally leading people out of darkness into the light, transmitting not just knowledge but practical wisdom and answers to the biggest and most important of human questions. Education, after all, has roots in two Latin verbs, namely, educare, which means to mold, to form, to shape; and educere, which means to bring out, to lead out, to help one realize his or her potential. True education is both.
The Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education published a beautiful instruction in 1982 on the calling of all those involved in Catholic universities and schools to form not merely minds, but responsible and mature men and women. It wrote, “The integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, together with preparation for professional life, formation of ethical and social awareness, becoming aware of the transcendental, and religious education.” Every educational institution, it said, has to strive to form “strong and responsible individuals, who are capable of making free and correct choices, thus preparing young people to open themselves more and more to reality, and to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life.”
An institution that cedes the formation of values and good habits to others does not serve students or society well. In this regard, I can’t help but recall the haunting words of Haim Ginnott who having survived the Holocaust became an educational psychologist and wrote to teachers about the indispensable place of proper ethical formation in education. “Dear Teacher,” he wrote, “I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness: Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.”
If we are going to help them become humane, however, we have to have a clear concept of who the human person is and the types of attitudes, virtues, and behaviors that are consistent with making a person truly humane. There are many reductive anthropological notions today grounded in materialism, individualism, hedonism, relativism, dualism, idealism, or collectivism that exert great cultural influence. These understand the purpose of education, on the one hand, as geared fundamentally toward producing employees or consumers, or, on the other, leaves them totally on their own to try to figure out the meaning of things, under the belief that proposing something as true is contrary to freedom.
Catholic institutions, to serve human beings well, must be distinguished by offering the Christian concept of the person in communion with teaching of the Church, one that takes seriously our dignity as beloved children of God and the rights that flow from it; one that recognizes that we’re not isolated monads but beings with rational and social natures called to live in solidarity and communion; one that understands freedom not as a capacity to invent our own concept of the universe but as the capacity and the responsibility to order it to the true and the good.
Ultimately Catholic institutions propose as the model of the fullest development of the human person Jesus Christ, whom the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World teaches “fully reveals the human person to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” and who shows us, through his teaching, action and very being that the human person “cannot find himself except through the unselfish gift of himself to others” (GS 22, 24).
It is through intellectual and ethical formation in this anthropology, one lived and modeled by professors, administrators, and staff, that Catholic universities can surely help make their graduates “more humane.” This form of education does not simply ask the teacher to teach and the students to learn, but urges everyone to live, study and act in accordance with the reasons of a fraternal humanism, one that tries to develop each person’s individual gifts and help him or her place them at the service of others, one that extends the classroom to embrace in solidarity, sharing and communion, those most in need of those gifts.
The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education said that the special calling of those in Catholic universities is to “form men and women who will be ready to take their place in society, preparing them in such a way that they will make the kind of social commitment that will enable them to work for the improvement of social structures, making these structures more conformed to the principles of the Gospel. Thus, they will form human beings who will make human society more peaceful, fraternal, and communitarian. Today’s world has tremendous problems: hunger, illiteracy and human exploitation; sharp contrasts in the standard of living of individuals and of countries; aggression and violence, a growing drug problem, the push for abortion, along with many other examples of the degradation of human life. All of this demands that [those involved in Catholic education] develop in themselves, and cultivate in their students, a keen social awareness and a profound sense of civic and political responsibility.” Educators in Catholic institutions, in other words, “must be committed to the task of forming men and women who will make the ‘civilization of love’ a reality.”
II. The Moral and Ethical Responsibilities of Catholic Universities
with regard to Migrants and Refugees
I would like to focus now to the specific responsibilities of Catholic universities with regard to the phenomenon of migrants and refugees. Last year, the Congregation for Education turned to this subject in a document entitled, Educating to fraternal humanism: Building a ‘civilization of love’ 50 years after Populorum Progressio. It said that while the contemporary world is being dramatically impacted by various crises — economic, financial, political, environmental, demographic —the “complex phenomenon of migration, affecting the whole world, leading to both encounters and clashes of civilizations… [is] a process that has been properly described as an epoch-making change.”
It expressed its concern that the humanitarian tragedies of war and natural disasters lead to migration and refugee crises and in many cases, instead of being protected and welcomed, migrants and refugees are treated with indifference, or worse, pushed back.
And there are hundreds of millions of them. In 2017, 258 million people crossed international borders, a fifty percent increase compared to the year 2000. Around 68.5 million were forcibly driven from their homelands due to wars, persecutions and other gross violations of fundamental human rights. The number of refugees grew from 15.4 million in 2010 to 25.4 million in 2017, a dramatic increase of more sixty percent in seven years. Added to those are some 41 million people who are presently being trafficked and enslaved, mainly for sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Who are these people on the move and why do they move? Many factors drive migration. There are the push factors or the factors that compel people to leave, like war and conflict, extreme want, insecurity, human rights violations, lack of opportunity, as well as natural catastrophes caused by both sudden and slow onset disasters provoked by climatic changes. Then there are the pull factors, factors that attract people to go to a specific destination, like the search for better opportunities, a life in larger freedom, family reunification, or changes in labor markets.
In brief, the phenomenon of massive movements of populations for all these reasons is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and one of the defining priorities of Pope Francis and the international activities of the Holy See.
The global challenge of migration must also be a challenge for Catholic universities and other institutions of learning and training, who have the mission and the experience to work out programs to respond to this challenge.
That’s precisely the mission and experience that Pope Francis is counting on Catholic universities to help the Church, the world, and particularly migrants and refugees through research, education and social advocacy. I would like to turn to these three themes now.
There is clearly a need for deeper studies on the remote causes of forced migrations to that we might be able to anticipate and address them and affirm people’s prior right to remain in their countries of origin in peace, security, and prosperity.
The first Objective of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is to “collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies.” There is a need to amass, analyze and disseminate accurate, reliable, comparable data, disaggregated by sex, age, migration status and other characteristics relevant in national contexts in order to guide coherent, fact-based public discourse and policymaking and to monitor and evaluate the implementation of commitments over time.
The Global Compact on Refugees calls, in paragraph 43, the establishment of a “global academic network on refugee, other forced displacement, and statelessness issues … involving universities, academic alliances, and research institutions, together with UNHCR and other relevant stakeholders, to facilitate research, training and scholarship opportunities” that will help achieve the Compact’s goals.
Catholic educational institutions can obviously provide much help in these endeavors, working at the local, regional, and international levels to improve the collection of data that inform migration policy.
Pope Francis said last year, “Catholic universities have always sought to harmonize scientific with theological research, placing reason and faith in dialogue. I believe it is appropriate to initiate further studies on the remote causes of forced migrations, with the aim of identifying practicable solutions also in the long term, as it is necessary first to ensure that people have the right not to be forced to emigrate.”
He specifically called for research on the “negative, sometimes discriminatory and xenophobic first reactions to migrants in countries of ancient Christian tradition, to propose paths for raising awareness,” as well as on the “many contributions migrants and refugees bring to the societies that welcome them, as well as those that benefit their communities of origin.” The research needed, he said, must be more than merely quantitative.
He also called for increased theological reflection on the humanity of migrants and our moral response to them. “In migrants,” he said, “the Church has always contemplated the image of Christ who said, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Mt 25: 35). Their condition is, therefore, a challenge to the faith and love of believers, who are called on to heal the evils caused by migration and discover the plan God pursues through it even when caused by obvious injustices.”
I would say that the responsibilities that Catholic universities are called to exercise in the area of education can take various forms and directions, and I would just mention three important ones:
First, Catholic universities and schools, in general, are called to ensure as much as possible that migrants and refugees receive an adequate education to help them integrate and contribute to their societies of origin and destination, to support themselves, their families, and the common good.
The Holy See and the many Catholic-inspired non-governmental organizations who actively participated in the whole process leading to the two Global Compacts, together with like-minded Delegations, vigorously pushed hard on the area of education for the benefit of migrants and refugees. I believe we can be satisfied with the fruits of these efforts.
In particular, we are pleased that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration commits the international community to “invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills qualifications and competences” (Objective 18).
The Global Compact for Refugees, in paragraphs 68 and 69, calls for the expansion and enhancement of quality, inclusive national educational systems to facilitate ready access of refugee and host community boys and girls to primary, secondary and tertiary education and more direct financial support to make this possible. It calls for programs appropriately designed to respond to the different educational needs and levels, such as programs for early childhood development, technical and vocational training, teaching capacities, online education, and special care for those with disabilities and psychosocial trauma. It specifically calls on support to recognize the equivalency of academic, professional and vocational qualifications and encourages educational institutions to provide visas, scholarships, and other educational opportunities.
Catholic universities can become much-needed leaders in all of these ways. Pope Francis last year specifically expressed his hope that “Catholic universities will adopt programs aimed at promoting the education of refugees at various levels, both by the provision of distance courses for those who live in camps and centers and through the granting of scholarships enabling their relocation.” He said that because of the international footprint of Catholic education, Catholic universities are in a great position to “facilitate the recognition of qualifications and professions of migrants and refugees, for their benefit and that of the societies that welcome them.”
A second contribution would be in the area of providing specific professional training to pastoral workers and volunteers, teachers and professors on how to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees. Let us recall that Pope Francis briefly summarizes the Catholic approach to migration in these four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate. The Holy Father has said that providing this specific, professional, technical, human and spiritual formation of those who are on the ground to assist migrants is a “pressing task for Catholic universities.”
A third contribution and definitively not less important than the first two is with regard to the education of their students, some of whom will become society’s movers and shakers as political leaders, businessmen and culture shapers. For this reason, the Pope said, the students need to receive a “careful understanding of the migratory phenomenon, from a perspective of justice, global co-responsibility and communion in cultural diversity.” Ensure that all students in a Catholic university setting, and not just those studying human rights and migration oriented issues, receive this formation in humanity would be a great service Catholic universities could give not merely to their alumni but to migrants and refugees today and tomorrow.
II.3. Social Promotion
The third specific contribution Pope Francis was asking of Catholic universities was in the area of social promotion. This is where two of the four verbs of Pope Francis — to promote and to integrate — really have deep impact.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, in Objective 17, commits the international community to “eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration.” This is geared toward promoting, among the various segments of society, an open conversation on migration and migrants to bring about a more realistic, humane and constructive perception with regard to those involved.
The Global Compact for Refugees, in paragraph 84, in order to foster good relations between communities, calls for programs and projects to enhance understanding of the plight of refugees, through engaging children, adolescents, and youth, through sports and cultural activities, language learning and the rest. It specifically notes the important impact of civil society, the media, social media, and faith-based organizations in this form of social advocacy.
Catholic universities are particularly well-situated to help drive that conversation. Pope Francis last year said that Catholic universities are “privileged actors” who are called “first and foremost” to exercise a role of “critical conscience” in the political, economic and cultural realms.
For the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, held January 14 this year, Pope Francis wrote a message in which he said that the Lord Jesus “entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future.”
He stated that the Church is resolutely committed to welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating everyone on the move, and has called on the international community, as we approach Marrakesh in December, to “take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level.”
This solidarity, the Holy Father said, “is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight.”
That solidarity, generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight are what he is hoping will characterize the response of Catholic universities to this moral and ethical imperative.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
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