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Many challenges face migrants warn bishops

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 January, 2014

Bishop Ray Field.

Bishop Ray Field.

The challenges facing migrants today, both in our own country and overseas, should not be underestimated, two members of the Irish hierarchy have said.

In a message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Bishop John Kirby and Bishop Raymond Field warned that though migration may present many opportunities, there were also many challenges facing them.

Many people are forced to leave all they know because of forces outside of their control.  This affects not only the migrant themselves, but also those they have left behind,” the bishops said.

Elsewhere in their message for World Migrant and Refugee Sunday (19 January), Bishop Kirby and Bishop Field prayed for all those who have travelled far from their homeland in search of a better life.

“We remember those who have left our shores in the hope of making a new life for themselves abroad; and also, those who have joined us to begin their new life in Ireland.”

The theme for this year’s World Migrant and Refugee day is ‘Towards a better World.’

They also highlighted that a seminar will take place on 19 February which will address the challenges facing migrants.

The seminar, titled ‘Journeying Together – Challenges facing the Migrant Today’, is hosted by two councils of the Irish Episcopal Conference: the Council for Immigrants and the Council for Emigrants.

It will be chaired by the journalist and author, Shane Coleman, and will involve Church representatives and NGOs.

The seminar will provide a unique opportunity to explore both emigration and immigration in an Irish, European and global context. 

Key areas for discussion will be: the effects of migration on the family; the undocumented, both at home and abroad; and Irish prisoners overseas and foreign national prisoners in Ireland.

Meanwhile, in his first message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis has emphasised that migrants and refugees do not merely represent a problem to be solved, but are “brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved”.

In his message, the Pope highlights how “Our societies are experiencing, in an unprecedented way, processes of mutual interdependence and interaction on the global level.”

The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking, the Pope states.

“Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history.”

He underlines that as the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects, and to maximise its positive influence on the communities of origin, transit and destination.

“Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement.”

The Pontiff warns that nowadays, “slave labour is common coin!”

Yet despite the problems, risks and difficulties to be faced, great numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be inspired by confidence and hope; in their hearts they long for a better future, not only for themselves but for their families and those closest to them.

In his message, the Pope acknowledges that while it is true that migrations often reveal failures and shortcomings on the part of States and the international community, they also point to the aspiration of humanity to enjoy a unity marked by respect for differences, by attitudes of acceptance and hospitality which enable an equitable sharing of the world’s goods, and by the protection and the advancement of the dignity and centrality of each human being.

The 2014 message by Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is now available for publication at: http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2013/09/24/popes-message-word-day-migrants-refugees/

The Council for Immigrants and the Council for Emigrants of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference work to raise awareness of the challenges facing migrants and show solidarity with those affected by migration.

Bishop John Kirby is Bishop of Clonfert and Chair of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants.

Bishop Raymond Field is Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin and Chair of the Council for Immigrants of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

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