By Cian Molloy - 16 January, 2017
As Ireland starts to accept some 8,000 Syrian refugees into the country, Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore said on Sunday – World Day of Migrants and Refugees – that we need to do more than just welcome new arrivals into our communities.
“Today, in cities and towns like Balbriggan, Ballaghadereen, Belfast, Clonee, Lurgan, Letterkenny, Newry and Tralee there are people from the Philippines, India, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Syria and from many other countries,” says Bishop McAreavey, who is chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace.
“They have come to work in a vast range of jobs including in academia, factories, on farms, and in the media, retail, medical and healthcare. Our parishes have been welcoming as befitting the nature of a Christian community. I know many have put down roots and appreciate the fact that people are interested in them and value their work and contribution to life here.”
Not everyone has welcomed ‘the new Irish’ in a Christian fashion, says the bishop: “Sadly, there are exceptions to the warmth and welcome of Irish society to migrants and refugees. There have been racist attacks and incidents and no doubt we have all heard negative comments about one national group or another.”
The Bishop says that our duty to welcome the stranger does not end with how we respond to the new arrivals in our communities. He says we need to question the economic circumstances that force many to migrate from their homes in search of a better standard of life.
Multinational companies locate their production facilities in low wage economies, where workers have little chance of “working their way out of poverty”. Because these companies engage in tax avoidance schemes, there is little benefit to the national economies of developing countries as a result of environmentally damaging activities like intensive farming or open cast mining.
Bishop McAreavey said: “While it may not always be possible for Christians in Ireland to directly impact the global movement of people, we can do something which will have an impact on the inequality and suffering that forces such movement. When we go out to shop or wish to purchase online, we can choose to purchase ethically sourced goods that benefit the people and countries that produce them. We can support politicians who are peacemakers, who challenge policies and approaches that lead to tension and conflict.
“Ultimately as Christians, as we see young Eastern European men walk to work in meat factories in the early hours of the morning or Filipino nurses care for our sick, or Roma families struggle to adjust to life in Irish society, we need, in the words of Pope Francis ‘to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalisation of indifference’.”
In his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees Pope Francis focused on the plight of child migrants and refugees. He said these children were “threefold defenceless” because of their youth, their voicelessness and the fact that they were migrants.
As part of World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2017, the Vatican has launched its first ever social media campaign exploring the plight of child and adolescent migrants.