Pope Francis launched a two-year campaign Wednesday to educate people about the plight of migrants, and to encourage a more welcoming attitude toward them worldwide.
“Brothers, we mustn’t be afraid to share the journey! We mustn’t be afraid to share the hope!” Francis said in his weekly General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square Wednesday, in which he inaugurated the new project, titled “Share the Journey.”
The campaign is spearheaded by the global Catholic charities network Caritas Internationalis, and aims at promoting awareness and action on behalf of migrants and refugees, assisting them in building connections with local communities.
According to Caritas, the project was launched as a response to Pope Francis’ frequent summons for a “culture of encounter.”
Our world “faces not a migration crisis, but a crisis of global solidarity,” Caritas says on its website. “Be part of a worldwide campaign to reach out to migrants, change perceptions, open hearts and minds, and strengthen the bonds that unite us all.”
The project intends to shed light on both the challenges and effects of migration at every stage of the journey in order to provoke a “shift in thinking” on the issue.
Part of this shift in thinking involves dispelling common “myths about migration,” the organization states, before laying out “some common myths around migration and the facts behind the myths.” According to Caritas, these myths include the idea that there are more migrants than ever before, that migrants live off welfare benefits and steal jobs from citizens, that closing borders will stem migrant flows, and that “people from poor countries migrate to rich ones.”
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In its pro-immigrant campaign, Caritas has partnered with the ecumenical ACT Alliance of over 140 members, the United Nations agencies the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN’s refugee organisation (UNCHR) and its World Food Programme, along with numerous other religious and civil society organisations.
The Vatican held a press conference Wednesday to formally announce the “Share the Journey” project, presided over by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas Internationalis, along with Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, the director of Caritas Ethiopia, Bekele Moges, and three young migrants from Africa.
In the conference, Tagle said world leaders should remember that “we are all migrants. Nobody can claim to be a non-migrant, we are all passing in this world.”
“Nobody is a permanent resident,” and no one can claim to “own the space they occupy,” he said, voicing his hope that there would be a universal “conversion of mind” on the issue.
Recognizing the fear that some might feel at having foreigners enter their country, the cardinal said these fears often dissipate when people take the time to sit with immigrants and listen to their stories. “You will see that they are like you and me,” he said.
Sr. Pimentel of Catholic Charities described current U.S. immigrant policy as “harsh.”
“All the administrations, even the previous administration, were very harsh in deporting a lot of the immigrants and making those detention centers for family units,” she said, adding that in her view, “it’s so unjust and so unfair for a family with children, with infants, to be placed in detention facilities.”
“Just like the previous administration, this administration is doing the same and probably harsher,” she said, saying that placing families in such centers is “not humane,” because they are essentially being put “into prisons.”
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