VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Though Africa “exports” refugees and emigrants to neighboring countries, there are some 40 million African migrants within the continent. According to one Vatican official, these people are often impeded from living a dignified life due to xenophobia.
Archbishop Antonio Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, spoke about the reality of immigration in Africa when he addressed today the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The synod is under way at the Vatican through Oct. 25.
The prelate called the ministry to migrants, refugees and other displaced people an “important, widespread and complex problem.” He noted that in the last 30 years, “a variety of circumstances have fed” the phenomenon of migration.
“Apart from increasing urbanization,” he explained, “wars and conflicts of various types have transformed different countries into ‘exporters’ of refugees and emigrants to neighboring countries, other areas of the continent or foreign countries.”
Nevertheless, Archbishop Vegliò noted, according to the Vatican summary of his intervention, migratory movement in Africa is above all “horizontal.”
“In effect,” he said, “intra-continental migration is much more significant than that toward the rest of the world, to the extent that it is estimated that internal migration currently involves at least 40 million people, for the most part Africans. And all the indications are that these internal and inter-regional fluxes will continue to increase in coming years and decades.”
In this context, the archbishop pointed to “worrying xenophobic feelings toward immigrants,” which he acknowledged are fueled by the economic crises and conflicts that “scar many countries on the continent of Africa.”
Immigrants, he lamented, are “transformed into scapegoats for internal political and economic problems. Often, as a result, the immigration policies of states have become more rigid, thus making a permanent stay or the development of business by immigrants more difficult.”
Archbishop Vegliò said that within this situation, “the respect for human rights, democratic principles and principles of legality, good governance, the deepening of political dialogue and the strengthening of international cooperation, are the guidelines that will direct the present and future of Africa.”
He affirmed that ministry to migrants and other displaced people is “not of secondary importance.”
“Only an authentic relationship of justice, in fact, will lead to peace,” the archbishop concluded, “and, from this, the Church in Africa will be able to draw strength in the service of reconciliation and the proclamation of the Gospel.”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Vatican summaries of the interventions from the synod’s 11th congregation: www.zenit.org/article-27164?l=english