While the issues causing forced migrations must be dealt with, it is also important to recall that the changes necessitated by migration — both in the migrants and in the receiving communities — don’t have to be seen as obstacles. They can be taken as opportunities for growth.
This was part of the message given at the United Nations on Wednesday by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See.
He was addressing the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Third Committee, on Agenda Item 26 (a, b): Social Development (Youth, Ageing etc.)
Here is the text of his address:
Let me congratulate you on your role as Chair of the Third Committee. My delegation looks forward to working constructively with the Committee during your tenure.
The United Nations report on the “World Social Situation 2016” reminds us that while poverty has declined dramatically across the world and people are healthier, more educated and better connected than ever before, progress remains uneven. More worrying still is the conclusion that social and economic inequalities persist and in many cases are increasing internationally.
Perhaps nowhere is this deterioration more apparent than in areas where protracted conflicts have become part of daily life. In too many corners of our world, children and youth are raised under the rules of war, rather than the rule of law. Lingering political and ethnic strife, persecution and mass atrocities, extreme poverty and rising inequalities force many to become refugees and migrants, displace countless individuals and destroy homes and properties. For the victims, there is no peace and security, no human rights and development and, in many cases, no one to turn to for help.
It is a basic right of every individual to remain in peace and enjoy the security that provides the foundation and stability needed for lasting social development. In Lesvos, Greece, Pope Francis called upon “all political leaders to employ every means to ensure that individuals and communities, including Christians, remain in their homelands and enjoy the fundamental right to live in peace and security.”
In this respect, the 2030 Agenda continues to show great promise in addressing the root causes that have led to the conflicts and crises that we currently face, making them less likely to happen again in the future. If achieved with full respect for human life and the dignity of every person, the 2030 Agenda would eradicate extreme poverty, reverse the trend of rising inequalities, stem environmental degradation, and lay the foundation for peaceful and inclusive societies in which the common good is truly shared together by everyone, leaving no one behind.
It is crucial that we address the needs of those forced to migrate. Unable to secure a regular and orderly way to migrate, they risk their lives in the hands of human smugglers and trafficking networks. If they are lucky enough to reach their intended or any destination, in many cases they are met with more hostility, fear, anxiety, racism and even xenophobia. In his remarks to the Joint Session of the US Congress, Pope Francis applied the Golden Rule in addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, saying, “In a word, if we want security, let us give security, if we want life, let us give life, if we want opportunities, let us give opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.” My delegation believes that this is not only the right thing to do; it is also the best practice.
The recently adopted New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants has set the stage for the fulfillment of a series of commitments and for the negotiation of several Global Compacts to face these challenges collectively. This Declaration and the Secretary General’s new global campaign to combat xenophobia are hopeful signs, but they require greater political will, cooperation and solidarity on the part of all to translate that hope into reality.
Pope Francis does not cease to remind us that at this moment in human history, marked by great movements of migration, the question of identity is not a secondary issue. Those who migrate are forced to change some of their most distinctive characteristics and, whether they like or not, even those who welcome them are also forced to change.3 The challenge before us is not to experience these changes as obstacles, but as opportunities for genuine human, social and spiritual growth, a growth which respects and promotes those values which make us ever more humane.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
1 World Social Situation 2016: Leaving No One Behind —the Imperative of Inclusive Development, Note by the Secretariat (A/71/188), 25 July 2016
2 Joint Declaration of His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, of His Beatitude Ieronymos, Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, and His Holiness Pope Francis, Mòria Refugee Camp, Lesvos (16 April 2016)
3 Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016 (17 January 2016)