Migrants need to be Welcomed, Promoted, Protected and Integrated

By Kudakwashe Matambo

On the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on the 14th of January, Pope Francis made a remark that “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the first prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, made the Holy Father’s remarks sounder during his visit to Zimbabwe recently.

In his address at the international Migration Conference hosted by Catholic University of Zimbabwe in Harare recently, Cardinal Turkson explained that the issue of migrants and refugees are not just political or social, they are theological and call for proper discernment.

“Migration is a theological category, it serves God's purpose of salvation. Jesus fled to Egypt, and it led to the salvation of the human family. Integration is a consequence of migration.”

He explained that in all places, God is the real host and the people of God are called to open to other people and to offer hospitality to other people.

“Right from the beginning God's people were mixed.”

At the conference held under the theme, Migration and its impact on Southern Africa, Cardinal Turkson said the Holy Father’s message is that migrants need to be “welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated in our communities.”

He said the matter requires discernment, discernment by governments on their ‘ability and capacity to receive these people (migrants).’

 “To be a refugee does not reduce your dignity but rather calls for its protection and recognition, human family grew out of the brotherhood. We were created to coexist in pursuit of our common good.”

 “When people migrate, the fundamentals of coexistence do not change. Politics needs to take this into consideration. No government bestows dignity on a person, it comes from creation. In society, governments must promote and protect it.”

Cardinal Turkson challenged sentiments from various political debates on this conflict of mobility saying migration can be a source of peace and economic growth, “only if society looks at this an opportunity for dialogue.”

The Cardinal latter visited and interacted with some refugees at the Harare Waterfalls Transit camp.

Some of the facilitators included Tim Smith from the Jesuit Refugee Service (South Africa) who shared with the participants JRS’ response to refugees across Southern Africa. JRS South Africa, provides skills training, counselling, secondary education and pastoral work to the 19 000 Tongogara refugee camp in Manicaland.

Other presenters included Dr Desire Nsizabira (Misereor Representative for Southern Africa), Fr Peter-John Pearson (Director of Parliamentary Liaison Office of the Bishops in South Africa), Dr David Kaulem from Arrupe Jesuit University among other renowned speakers.

The conference was attended by all the country’s bishops, Catholic University of Zimbabwe officials and students, and various heads of Catholic and non-Catholic institutions and other delegates from across Africa.



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