(Vatican Radio) Church leaders and NGOs have welcomed the launch of a new Caritas Internationalis campaign to promote the integration of migrants and refugees. Pope Francis on Wednesdayofficially launched the ‘Share the Journey’ campaign, as he met with a group of 50 refugees gathered in St Peter’s Square.
The aim of the two year initiative is to encourage local communities to meet with migrants and listen to their stories, rather than be influenced by negative news reporting or fear mongering on the part of political pressure groups. That can include fears of terrorist infiltration, the spread of diseases, or the intolerable strain on local services, jobs and resources.
Among those welcoming the new Caritas campaign is Msgr Robert Vitillo, Secretary General of the Geneva-based International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the need to share facts to combat fears and showcase the contribution that migrants make to their host countries
Msgr Vitillo says the ICMC has been working on these issues for a long time. A recent imitative he cities is the organisation of a conference in Brussels on the sponsorship of refugees, whereby private individuals or groups receive authorization and guarantee the support of migrants for a period of time.
EU countries, he notes, have different policies and there is a need for greater harmonsiation, including a revision of the Dublin accord, so that countries like Italy and Greece don’t bear the brunt of the resettlement problem.
Refugees enrich host countries
While it’s important to share the burden of refugee resettlement, Msgr Vitillo says it’s also vital to talk about the sharing of talents, since refugees bring gifts, skills, experience, culture and spiritualty to enrich the countries that receive them.
Economic contribution of migrants
Msgr Vitillo says a number of economic studies in the U.S. and the E.U. show that refugees, if they’re able to work, contribute much more in taxes than they receive from governments over a 5 to 10 year period. He notes that Pope Francis, in his message for World Refugee Day 2018, says we need to take the long view of how migrants contribute to the countries that receive them, as well as supporting their families in countries suffering from poverty or conflict
Promoting culture of welcome.
ICMC Europe also has an initiative called ‘Share’, which works in around 30 countries with churches, municipalities, local governments officials, businesses and civil society groups to promote a culture of welcome.
U.N. Global Compacts on migration
He adds that the ICMC is actively promoting the 20 Action Plan points, which the Vatican has proposed and the pope has personally approved, for local churches to influence their national officials, as they negotiate the two Global Compacts on refugees and migrants at the UN next year.
Facts to combat fears
Msgr Vitillo responds to fears about the spread of infections and about the influx of terrorists: he notes that no recent refugees or migrants have been involved in any of the latest attacks, while studies have shown there is no evidence to support claims of refugees spreading infectious diseases.
The challenge for the Church, he concludes, is to bring out the facts, as well as to appeal to people’s hearts and souls to welcome migrants and refugees.