On January 1, 2018, we marked the 51st World Day of Peace proclaimed by Pope Francis, celebrated on the Octave of Christmas that is the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr was held at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral where we welcomed Migrants and Refugees to join with us in prayer.
This year the Pope’s message for the World Day of Peace was titled Migrants and Refugees; Men and Women in Search of Peace. In this message he instructs the faithful and the world to offer asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek. This is done through a strategy that calls for welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.
“Welcoming” calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights. Scripture reminds us: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
“Protecting” has to do with our duty to recognize and defend the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security, and to prevent them being exploited. I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement. God does not discriminate: “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow.”
“Promoting” entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees. Among many possible means of doing so, I would stress the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people. This will enable them not only to cultivate and realize their potential, but also better equip them to encounter others and to foster a spirit of dialogue rather than rejection or confrontation. The Bible teaches that God “loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
“Integrating,” lastly, means allowing refugees and migrants to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them, as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community. Saint Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people.”
We at Catholic Charities are actively Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees into the Cincinnati Community through our Refugee Resettlement Program, the Su Casa Hispanic Center, Immigration Legal Services, Language Interpretation Services, Case Management for Migrant Children and Mothers, and a Trafficking Victims Assistance Program. This includes a combination of direct service and advocacy for the world population of over 250 million migrants and 22.5 million refugees. As Archbishop Schnurr noted in his homily on Sunday that we would take the same actions if we found ourselves in a threatened or similarly dangerous situation. This is our share in reaching out to one migrant or refugee at a time through God’s love.