Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
Opening Remarks at the side event
“Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees:
An Interfaith Perspective on the Global Compacts”
United Nations, New York, 3 May 2018
Your Eminences and Excellencies, Esteemed Panelists,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you to this afternoon’s event on “Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees: An Interfaith Perspective on the Global Compacts,” which the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See is sponsoring together with Caritas Internationalis and its Share the Journey Campaign.
The international community is now engaged here in New York in intergovernmental negotiations toward the adoption of a Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and in Geneva in intergovernmental consultations with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for the Global Compact on Refugees. It is a singular opportunity to show our solidarity with the millions of people in different parts of the world who have been uprooted from their places of origin and often face a desperate ordeal. It’s an occasion, through international cooperation and responsibility-sharing, to find long-term and sustainable solutions among all stakeholders to the root causes of these large movements of people, and to increase capacity in countries of origin, transit and destination to care for them in a way that respects their human dignity and rights and respects national sovereignty.
Pope Francis has been very involved in this process. In his Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees held on January 14 this year, he emphasized that solidarity with every person forced to leave his or her homeland in search of a better future must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience, from departure through journey to arrival and return. He said that our shared response can helpfully be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, protect, promote and integrate.
These four actions comprehend the work being attempted and accomplished by stakeholders at all levels, but insofar as today’s event centers on the work and motivation of people of faith and faith-based organizations across the world, we ought to shine a spotlight on the ways that faith-based organizations provide so much of the infrastructure for immediate and long-term hospitality and accommodation, defend the rights and dignity of refugees and migrants independent of legal status, ensure through education, professional and social inclusion that they are able to achieve their potential as human beings, and enrich them and the societies that embrace them through the exchange of talents and culture.
Faith-based organizations are unique in their reach and presence at all points of the migratory journey, often filling gaps in services to migrants that governments, and other civil society actors, are incapable or unwilling to fill on their own. As UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed stressed in January at a symposium on the importance of faith based actors in the process of the negotiation of the Global Compacts, “Around the world, faith-based organizations are found on the front lines of crisis, providing food, shelter, education, and medical and psychological support to migrants and refugees. [They] work tirelessly to assert [migrants’ and refugees’] human rights and dignity, independent from national and regional political interests.” On behalf of the United Nations, she underlined, “We count on faith-based organizations to maximize this operation.”
Today we will hear from leaders of different faiths about many of the reasons why faith-based organizations are so effective in caring for the millions on the move. Migrants of particular faiths have a particular trust in their faith institutions and sometimes well before they are able to access services provided by governments and international organizations come to the churches and charities of their faith tradition for basic needs support. But even when they are of a different faith than assisting organizations, many know of the reputation of faith-based organizations to extend care to anyone in need because of the principles of charity, mercy and solidarity flowing from that faith.
Faith-based organizations start, not from political or economic perspectives, but from the affirmation of the human dignity of all people before all else. This person-centered approach, while not unique to faith-based organizations, is at the heart of all of their work. It also inspires a more holistic approach to caring for the migrant and their families. Rather than addressing migration simply as a political or economic problem, faith-based organizations typically address the needs of every person, as an individual in communion with others and the common good of all society.
There are many ways to highlight the proven effectiveness of faith-based organizations in assisting refugees and migrants and in assisting governments to fulfill their responsibilities to them. I will focus on just one example. In the United States, there are nine agencies that assist the US State Department in resettling refugees. Of these nine, six are faith-based organizations: The Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, World Relief Corporation, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the Migrant and Refugee Services of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Together they help place refugees in 190 communities throughout the United States. They are involved in the work because they are motivated by their faith; they are granted these responsibilities by governments like the United States, however, because of the proven effectiveness of their work.
During negotiations toward the Global Compacts there has been discussion of the role of faith-based organizations. Some have questioned their relevance, but as today’s event hopes to show, they are not only relevant but crucial to the help of migrants and refugees and also to the work of States in caring for them. The pivotal part they play in welcoming, protecting, promoting, integrating and sharing the journey of migrants and refugees should be noted and lifted up as an example for all of civil society — and receive explicit reference in the Global Compacts.
Before I call on our distinguished panelists to give us their reflections on the theme, I would like to finish with a word from Pope Francis. In his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees earlier this year, he said, “At the United Nations Summit held in New York on 19 September 2016, world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level. To this end, the states committed themselves to drafting and approving, before the end of 2018, two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants. In light of these processes currently underway, the coming months offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support the concrete actions that I have described with four verbs [to welcome, protect, promote and integrate].” He then extended an invitation to “all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process that will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts” to work together to show the type of solidarity modeled by faith-based organizations that migrants and refugees deserve and that the international community desires and demands. We are acting on that invitation this afternoon.
Thank you all for coming!