Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees:
Welcoming Everyone without Discrimination,
“for God is Love” (1Jn 4,8)
The global COVID-19 tragedy of 2020 has caused pain, sorrow, and distress to so many people. In his 2020 Easter Urbi et Orbi Message, Pope Francis stated that migrants and refugees are the ones affected most seriously by the pandemic. Thus, he urged us to understand and support them, emphasizing that this is one of the most important and urgent political issues facing humanity. He also voiced his concerns for all people who are marginalized and rejected by their neighbors and societies as a result of COVID-19.
Referring to Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia (August 1, 1952), Pope Francis recalled the child Jesus who, together with His parents, Mary and Joseph, was forced to flee from the persecution of Herod. The Pope said that Jesus, an example of a migrant and refugee, is present with and in all migrants and refugees of our time: “in the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, strangers and prisoners, we are called to see the face of Christ (cf. Mt 25,31-46).”
In his message for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis developed the pastoral theme previously expressed in his message for the Day in 2018: ‘welcome, protect, promote and integrate.’ He further suggested six concrete ways through which we can help migrants and refugees.
First, we need to know in order to understand. Migrants and displaced persons are not just statistics, but they are real people living with and among us. We should get to know these people by encountering and listening to them.
Second, we need to be close in order to serve. It is wonderful to see so many people dedicate themselves to looking after the sick and, even, risking their own lives during this pandemic. Often fears and prejudices prevent us from reaching out to and interacting with others. Such obstacles prevent us from serving others in a spirit of love. Jesus stayed close to the poor, the sick, the marginalized and those discriminated against. We, like Jesus, should endeavor to approach migrants and refugees without fear or prejudice (cf. Lk 10,33-34).
Third, we need to listen in order to be reconciled. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son... that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3,16-17). In fact, Pope Francis has noted how “a love that reconciles and saves begins with listening.” By listening to the pleas of the vulnerable and poor, we have an opportunity to be reconciled with our neighbors, ourselves, and God.
Fourth, we need to share in order to grow. The miracle of the five barley loaves and two fish, which eventually fed five thousand people, started with one boy’s humble sharing (cf. Jn 6,1-15). Sharing what we have, like the boy, is an essential act of love which leads us towards growth and salvation.
Fifth, we need to be involved in order to promote the higher values. It is important to find “the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity” (Pope Francis, Meditation in Saint Peter’s Square, March 27, 2020).
Lastly, we need to cooperate in order to build. “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement” (1Cor 1,10).
In the midst of the present pandemic, it is necessary to take care of our neighbors, especially migrants and refugees, remembering the Holy Family’s similar flight into Egypt. Together we should spare no effort in transforming the grief and despair of migrants and refugees into joy and hope.
September 27, 2020
+ John Baptist Jung Shin-chul
Bishop of Incheon President
CBCK Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Foreign Residents Living in Korea