The reflection of the Scalabrinian Father Alfredo Gonçalves on the occasion of the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (29 September 2019)
Rome, September 26, 2019 – As in a mirror, the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 29, 2019, can be seen against the background of the UN General Assembly debates, which record differences and contradictions in the speeches and positions of each head of state.
On the one hand, Donald Trump strengthens and preaches the populist nationalism of the policy adopted by the United States, authorized to engage in a trade war with China. The Brazilian president Jair Messias Bolsonaro follows him closely, insisting on aggressive isolationism or the ghost of socialism, both obsolete. On the other hand, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, defending multilateralism, reiterates that diversity is wealth and not a threat.
A Scenario That Involves Us All
Pope Francis, in his usual message on the celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees – this year with the subject It is not just about migrants – it draws attention to the wider context in which mass human movements occur.
The pontiff’s words make it clear that migration is only the tip of the iceberg of an international scenario that involves everyone and everything, especially governments, nations and institutions of civil society. While marching on adversity and without defined horizons, migrants and refugees refute the inequality economy to use the phrase coined in the book by Thomas Piketty, or the economy that excludes, discards and kills in the prophetic refrain of the Holy Father.
The Damage of Populism on the Skin of Migrants
What is certain is that nationalist and exacerbated populism has caused deep damage, even in countries with long democratic traditions, and more serious damage in recent and non-consolidated democracies. The worst consequences of this new wave of nationalism, however, live in the flesh and soul of the people in exodus.
Increasingly restrictive laws, closed and militarized borders, the expulsion of undocumented people, hostility and persecution, racism and xenophobic aggression, increasing difficulties for asylum seekers, reduction of the budget for reception, assistance and social inclusion: these are some of the harmful consequences for those who dream of a less perverse future.
Rejected by their origin, which denies them fair and dignified citizenship, migrants and refugees end up being rejected in the countries of possible destinations. They remain adrift, sometimes literally, in the hope of finding a new home.
An Effective and Reliable Solidarity
The appeal of the pontifical message seeks to find answers and solutions to this enormous multitude of stateless persons. In particular, it warns of the need to review the concept of charity, not like the distorted notion of almsgiving, which widens the gap between rich and poor, but as effective and reliable solidarity, which includes people, institutions and countries.
It is a question of ensuring that technological progress and economic growth lead to the integral development of the whole person and all people, as the encyclical Populorum Progressio, published by Pope Paul VI in 1967, recalled. The right is at stake to come and go and this corresponds to the right to remain with dignity and protection in one’s own country.
Attention to the Last: Criterion of Our Salvation
Furthermore, from a gospel and solidarity perspective, the message of the Holy Father invites us to put the last in the first place. As Jesus said and did: to bring the poor and the excluded to the center, the small and the defenseless, the sick and the marginalized. For two reasons, first: because the last represents the criterion of salvation (Mt 25:40: “Truly I say to you, all you have done to one of these my least brothers, you did it to me”; Mt 25:35: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”).
Second: because the last are the prophets and the protagonists of the future and the construction of our common home. In the regions of origin, they denounce poor working and living conditions; in the places of destination, they indicate the need for new human relations, either they are national, regional or international.
Fr. Alfredo J. Gonçalves, cs