|Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People|
XVII Plenary Session
Vatican, 15 - 17 May 2006
“Migration and Itinerancy from and towards Islamic-majority Countries”
The phenomenon of human mobility, a sign of our times, raises a number of problems, religious and spiritual, besides social, economic and political ones. When discussing “migration and itinerancy from and towards Islamic majority countries”, the complexity, timeliness and importance of the topic are evident. These issues were discussed during the XVII Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, with the participation of Members and Consultors of the Dicastery, together with pastoral agents and experts.
In his greeting to the participants, at the Vatican, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that inter-religious dialogue is an integral part of the Church’s commitment to the service of mankind today and is almost the “daily bread” of those working in contact with migrants, refugees and people on the move. Individual Christians, the Holy Father added, “are called to open their arms and their hearts to every person – especially the lowly and the poor –, from whatever nation they come, allowing the Authorities responsible for public life to enforce the relevant laws held to be appropriate for a healthy living together”, with due respect for the human rights of all. Pope Benedict XVI concluded, “It is to be hoped that Christians who emigrate to nations with an Islamic majority will also be welcomed and their religious identity respected”. He defined the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people as “a significant frontier in the new evangelization in the current globalized world”.
The President of the Pontifical Council, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, opened the Plenary Session with a talk entitled “The Theme of the Plenary Meeting as seen in our recent Documents and Congresses”. Along the lines of the affirmations made by the Holy Father, he observed that to give a positive solution to the problems posed by the ever increasing number of migrants and itinerants from and towards Islamic majority countries, it is necessary to engage in a frank and sincere inter-religious dialogue, a lived witness of charity and welcome, scrupulous respect for religious freedom, a proper social and cultural integration that respects civil laws in force, and reciprocity that is rightly understood. The main points of the Cardinal’s address included the wish that there be, not only on the Catholic side, but on the Muslim side as well, “a growing awareness that fundamental liberties, the inviolable rights of the person, the equal dignity of man and woman, the democratic principle of government and the healthy lay character of the State are principles that cannot be surrendered” (Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi – henceforth EMCC – 66).
In his address entitled “The Changes, Views and Activities of the Pontifical Council since the last Plenary Meeting”, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, emphasised that one of the objectives of the present meeting was to convince everyone of the importance of a true dialogue, which should be more and more wide-ranging. From this some concrete conclusions are to be drawn, to ensure welcome and understanding also for people moving from and towards Islamic majority countries. These people or groups are also asked to make a sincere and generous contribution to the welfare of the host community and to the local Church itself. Archbishop Marchetto then added that the more settled communities are invited to understand the particular needs of their “guests” or immigrants, hence developing a great sense of solidarity. In this way, the local population and the newcomers, all together, could contribute to the attainment of a culture of ‘living together’, understanding and peace, respecting the human rights of each person. Then, starting with a more critical analysis of the historical events that still condition human mobility today, the Archbishop Secretary asserted that it is possible for the Churches (a qua and ad quam) to make an indispensable contribution to society, for a just regulation of human mobility itself and for the protection of the people involved in it, and indeed for all people. The basis for this are reciprocal respect and justice in treating juridical and religious questions. “Reciprocity is also an attitude of heart and spirit that enables us to live together everywhere with equal rights and duties” (EMCC 64).
Speaking in the afternoon of the first day of the Plenary Session, Fr Maurice Borrmans, M.Afr., a former professor of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, gave a complete (numerically and geographically) and detailed (statistically) picture of the present-day situation “of how people ‘live together’ in countries with an Islamic majority and an ancient or recent Christian minority”. According to Fr Borrmans, the possibility of ‘living together’ in that way, in the future, has become very precarious due to clashes between different factions and by the terrorist attacks of the last few years. In fact, he affirmed, “it is always the minorities that run the risk of becoming ‘scapegoats’ as a result of facile generalizations and simplistic mixtures that revive old prejudices and dreams of crusades or jihâd”. The Islamic world is not monolithic. Human mobility has reactivated the problems of ‘living together’. The result is an original and sometimes contradictory relationship between religion, culture, State and juridical order, much more so since in grasping modernity, democracy and the lay character of a society, each country comes up with a synthesis that completely reflects a given context.
The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, who was the next to address the Plenary Session, observed that “the growing phenomenon of human mobility continues to bring about a crossing of those geo-political borders which, in many cases, used to constitute the demarcation lines between the Christian and the Islamic worlds”. To reach a peaceful living together, Archbishop Celata recalled the affirmation of the Holy Father Benedict XVI that “dialogue is a vital necessity”, especially for Christians, who are called to love their neighbour by the strength and on the example of Christ. Referring to the Pope’s teaching, in his talk addressed to the Muslims in Cologne last year, the Archbishop drew attention to the challenges that Christians and Muslims face in common and to which they are called to give an answer. Among these, in the first place, is terrorism, to fight which we must succeed “in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence”. Archbishop Celata then stressed the importance of collaboration between Christians and Muslims to safeguard the values pertaining to the dignity of the human person, such as religious freedom, mutual respect, solidarity and peace. Referring subsequently to tensions inherited from the past, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue called on everyone to make the desire expressed by the Holy Father their own, namely to “seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity”. Moreover, in the cognitive and moral relativism and immanent secularism so diffused in our societies today, Archbishop Celata sees a challenge for both Christians and Muslims to bear witness together to the transcendent. Furthermore, before the rather widespread difficulty Muslims have in understanding and living the principle of a sound “secularity”, as well as considering the need for them to be properly integrated into western society, we, as Christians and citizens “are called to offer them, through appropriate dialogue and with an attitude of respectful friendship”, the witness of our experience.
On the second day of the Plenary Session, tackling the theme of migrations from Islamic majority Countries, the Secretary General of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, Msgr. Aldo Giordano, speaking on behalf of Fr Hans Vöcking, M.Afr. who was unable to attend, described the situation of Muslim immigrants in Europe. They have in fact greatly increased in number, thus contributing to making European society multi-religious. The crossroads which Muslims meet in the European diaspora is that of modernity and post-modernity. Of course some Muslims have an idea of the way towards “inculturation” in European society (“enlightened Islam”), but the majority see European culture in very problematic terms and aspire to go back to the medieval form of Islam in which there is a strong link between religion, society and politics. According to Fr Vöcking to find a way to integration, it is important to guarantee religious freedom, independence from foreign funding, setting up structures for the training of leaders, attention to civic education, democracy and human rights, dialogue between religions, and also correct information in the mass media. In this way, he concluded, we would find the way towards an interpretation of Islam that takes into account values more than laws, personal choice more than nostalgia for a “golden age”.
In Brunei the presence of migrants represents a challenge for the local Church to express its solidarity in a more tangible and fraternal manner. Indeed - the Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Cornelius Sim, emphasised - by responding to their spiritual needs, the Church ensures a service that is even more necessary than material aid. “Migrant workers find in the Church a way to serve their fellow Catholics, thus enriching their mutual experience of being Church”, and they also participate in the cultural and economic advancement of the Country.
Professor Stefano Zamagni, President of the International Catholic Migration Commission, speaking of current reception of a large number of Muslim refugees, noted instead that they bring with them concepts of life and religious beliefs that are profoundly different from those of the local population. He then invited to avoid two obstacles that impede them from being harmoniously inserted in the social tissue, and that is, a relativistic syncretism – according to which all religions are equal –, and a more or less forced assimilation. He then encouraged the elaboration of a model of intercultural dialogue that would respond, also in terms of public resources, in proportion to the degree of “acceptability” (consequential morals) of their requests.
Archbishop Anselme T. Sanon of Bobo-Dioulasso, in Burkina Faso, who was unable to be present, sent his paper on the theme of welcoming Christian refugees in the Western African countries of Islamic majority. It was read by Bishop Béchara Raï, of Jbeil, in Lebanon. In his detailed report, Archbishop Sanon pointed out and summarised all the different situations that the arrival of these refugees connote. Moreover, emphasising the important role that the Church is called on to play in this field, he outlined a series of pastoral responses to be given. In particular these include the creation of a chaplaincy for refugees in the dioceses in an effort to respond to their needs. At the same time, he called for a responsible commitment on the part of international institutions and a precious work of awareness-building in the communication media.
Dr. Michael Galligan-Stierle, Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Care in Universities of the Episcopal Conference of the United States of America, spoke of foreign (international) students in the USA who come from Islamic countries. He briefly summarised the history of many meetings, consultations and joint declarations resulting from dialogue between Muslims and Catholics, from 1987 onwards. He then emphasised the statistics relating to the 16.3 million university students in his country, of whom 591,188 are foreign (international) students. He also outlined some of the main concerns of Muslim students, first and foremost of which is their need for a place of prayer on the campus. He enumerated a large number of programmes offered to the Muslim student population, thanks to the responses to a questionnaire sent to the 1,200 university chaplains. Finally, he recommended that all pastoral projects for foreign (international) students should be an expression of respect, dialogue, cultural openness and freedom.
Fr Bernard Lapize de Salée, S.J., spoke of the situation of foreign (international) students in Algeria, whose numbers are growing. He reported that the Church there considers their presence a big grace and a marvellous Christian witness in Muslim Algeria. In fact, although the Muslims are more numerous, many foreign students are Christians, coming mostly from the French-speaking countries of Western Africa. These students take an active part in the life of the Church and they constitute the youngest element in the country’s Christian communities. Moreover, they give the local Church their direct experience with the Muslim youth of Algeria, with whom they are in close contact in the university cities. Fr Lapize de Salée concluded that it would be a good thing to have collaboration, or at least contact, between the Churches in the students’ home countries and those of Maghreb (North Africa), something which already partly exists.
Moving on to itinerancy, from and towards Islamic majority countries, regarding the question of the Roma, Dr Hannelore Valier of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted that, excluding India, the majority of them live primarily in Central and Eastern Europe. Although they are commonly regarded as nomads, they have in fact settled in European countries for hundreds of years. The problems they have to face include marginalization, xenophobia and racism, as well as a low level of education, high rate of unemployment (50-90%), inadequate health care and very poor housing conditions. In spite of all this, the determination to survive has been the force guiding the Roma over the centuries. The international community is, at any rate, working to improve their social integration, while respecting their cultural identity, on the basis of fair treatment. It is therefore necessary to reinforce the maturity of our democratic societies and their ability to understand and respect the social, cultural and religious diversity of Gypsies.
For the Apostleship of the Sea, Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez Martos of Barcelona (Spain) specified that this pastoral care offers essentially the same services to all seamen, whatever may be their religion. Statistics indicate that 18% of merchant seamen, that is some 200,000 persons, are Muslims. Generally speaking they are very religious and practising. Anyway, Muslims do not ask for spiritual assistance from Christians, and if this is offered to them (for example, putting them in contact with a mosque) they usually decline. Nevertheless, they appreciate material help – when necessary – and witnesses of charity and friendship. In the last decade, the Apostleship of the Sea has sought collaboration with the mosques in Barcelona, but failed. Recently, however, the Islamic Council of the City showed that it was in favour of a collaboration by which the Apostleship of the Sea directs Muslim seamen asking for religious assistance to their local community.
For his part, Fr Xavier Pinto, C.Ss.R., National Director of the Apostleship of the Sea in India, declared that 70% of the seafarers who visit the Stella Maris centres there are from the Philippines, while the greater part of the remaining 30% is composed of seamen from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (in that order). According to the speaker, for many Muslims, Jesus is an example of holiness and piety, who lived the true Islam. This would be the starting point allowing to interact with Muslims and work together with them. He added that to be able to carry out pastoral care of seafarers on board ship and in port, it is necessary first of all to respect the laws of the host country and to succeed in integrating the Apostleship of the Sea in the general pastoral work of the local Church, also in countries with Islamic majority.
Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem, SSL, speaking of assistance to Nigerian “women of the street”, both at home and in foreign countries, stated that the majority of these women come to the sad trade of selling their bodies for reasons of poverty and discrimination. The Catholic Church is at the forefront in the rehabilitation and promotion of the dignity of women and of womanhood (with citations from Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, 121). Sister Patricia proposed that the year 2010 be declared the Year of Women’s Dignity and invited all those who were present to support her proposal.
Fr Martin McDermott, S.J., referring to Lebanon, stated that there are at present two types of “women of the street” in the country: former domestic workers, at the mercy of their “protectors”, whether Muslim or Christian, and the so-called artists. In theory, prostitution is prohibited, but in practice it is regulated. Once these women arrive in Lebanon, they find it impossible to change their way of life and even to move about freely in the country. There is a mechanism which deprives them of their rights, their documents and therefore of freedom.
In her address, Mrs Thérèse Farra, Lebanese, indicated the so-called “shared” pilgrimages – that is, carried out together – by Christians and Muslims as an opportunity to form lasting friendships and establish a network of constructive relationships. The “Darb Maryam” (Way of Mary) organisation, that is active in this field, intends to offer opportunities for meetings where the “dialogue of life” can be practised and encourages the search for common values. The participants thus discover the religion of the others as they walk and pray for peace together, side by side, seeking to build it among themselves and spread it to those around them.
Msgr. Liberio Andreatta, the Delegate Administrator of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, looked at the question of Catholic pilgrimages in countries of Islamic majority. He pointed out that meetings with Muslims are fairly frequent at various stages of these pilgrimages. On such occasions, conversation, dialogue and sometimes discussion take place. These, however, do not make religious positions or ideas come closer to each other, owing to deeply rooted convictions. It is also possible, rather it is the duty of Christians, to rediscover their own identity during pilgrimages, that is, that they are disciples of Jesus Christ and are committed to “mission ad Gentes”. Certainly the archetype of going on pilgrimage is in going out in search of the face of Christ in one’s brothers and sisters.
Finally, in the field of Civil Aviation apostolate, Fr Paschal Ryan, chaplain of Heathrow Airport, in London, noted that, due to globalisation, airports have also become crossroads of contemporary civilisation. They reflect not only their local community, but also the global community. Airports are places of transit for many believers of different religions, who travel for religious reasons, since the idea of pilgrimage is common to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and others. Moreover, in Islam, the believer is indeed exhorted to travel to the shrines associated with the prophet Muhammad, at least once in their lifetime. Moreover, at Heathrow airport, there are sixty-five thousand to seventy thousand people of different religions who work there. Certainly, the characteristic of airports lies in the transitory nature of many interpersonal encounters, since millions of passengers pass through them rapidly each year. In spite of this, such an unusual situation permits a meeting with the stranger, and an understanding of how contacts between Christians and believers of other religions can lead to fruitful collaboration. Moreover, seeing men and women of different religions, races and social classes working together or sharing the same multi-religious place of prayer, one can imagine how the world could be, or rather ought to be.
On the closing day of the Plenary Session, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Secretary for State Relations of the Secretariat of State, affirmed that, despite fears and hesitations, a careful and transparent management of migration could be beneficial both to the countries of origin and destination. He thus faced a topic that is being discussed in various European nations that are afraid to open their territories, but are, at the same time, in chronic need of young, flexible and cheap manpower, whose employment seems to have limited negative effects on the employment of local workers. The Archbishop said, “The Church, in conformity with the catholic nature of its mission and its preferential option for the poor, is in favour of affirming the right to emigrate and of safeguarding the rights of migrants. This, however, does not relieve politicians of the serious responsibility to regulate the number and the form of migration flows, such that immigrants would feel a human welcome, with dignity. In this way, the population of the host country would not be placed in a condition that would objectively make them favourable to rejection, with negative consequences not only for the immigrants but also for the human culture of the host population and for the relations between peoples”. Noting that for various people coming from countries of Islamic majority, religion constitutes an element of one’s profound identity, the Archbishop reaffirmed the necessity for a scrupulous and reciprocal respect of religious freedom, which means defence of minorities and their human rights. Msgr. Lajolo observed, “Though on many sides there are calls at least for reciprocity in respect and in concessions (freedom of worship, construction of places of worship, …), yet, among many States in various continents, this concept [of reciprocity], at present, seems to exclude religious matters for a large number of Muslim countries, which demand for their citizens all those rights that they, on their part, do not recognize for migrants of other religions present in their territory.” According to Archbishop Lajolo, the Holy See will continue to declare its firm opposition to any attempt to use religion as a justification for terrorism and violence. Lastly, the Secretary for State Relations mentioned the delicate question of the protection of Christians in countries of Islamic majority. The lack of such protection in some countries is urging thousands of the Catholic faithful to leave their homeland.
Finally, the Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Archbishop Robert Sarah, traced a profile of those migrants who come from Sub-Saharan Africa. After that, he explained that the reasons for their exodus are linked to history, the socio-political situation, dramatic situations of insecurity and war, economic conditions and cultural phenomena such as globalisation. Then, following civil wars in some countries, more than four million people have fled elsewhere. Archbishop Sarah later explained that the chronic state of poverty and insecurity, which has made the African continent prone to permanent underdevelopment, has a negative influence on people and institutions, reduces foreign investments and is an incentive to criminality, and so on. Describing the itinerary followed by migrants to reach the Maghreb, the Archbishop defined as a real via crucis the tragedy experienced by these people, who are treated in a humiliating and inhuman manner on their arrival. After outlining the major problems that migrants have to face, he offered some solutions and prospects. “The Church, particularly that in Africa, has a duty to take on more and more fully the role of the good Samaritan”. Christians, on their part, are called upon to carry out their role with respect to immigrants and refugees transparently and with dedication. The Episcopal Conferences in both the countries of origin and arrival could make their contribution by informing, helping and accompanying all those who wish to migrate legally. Particular attention should be given to assistance in integration, with due respect for culture, religion and fundamental human values. Archbishop Sarah then called for an encouragement of social, intercultural and also inter-religious dialogue.
At the end of the aforementioned talks, the participants in the Plenary Session discussed the theme proposed to them this year in view of the formulation of some conclusions and recommendations and approved the following text.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Muslim migrants in countries of Christian majority
1) In this regard, an increase in immigration of Muslims was observed in European and North American countries, of ancient Christian tradition (see EMCC 59 and 65). They come in search of a job or democracy, or for family reunification.
2) From this came the encouragement of integration (not assimilation) of Muslim immigrants (cf. EMCC 2, 60-61).
3) In consequence Catholics, in particular, are called to practice solidarity with Muslim immigrants, to be open to sharing with them and to know more about their culture and religion. At the same time they are to bear witness to their own Christian values, also in view of a new evangelization which of course respects freedom of conscience and religion (cf. EMCC 59 and 69).
4) This means that Christians must get to know more deeply their identity (cf. EMCC 60) as disciples of Christ, bearing witness to this in their lives and rediscovering their role in the new evangelization (cf. EMCC 86-88).
5) It is therefore important to affirm the necessity of mutual respect and human solidarity, in an atmosphere of peace, based on the centrality of the human person, his/her dignity, rights and duties.
6) Naturally, each one’s human rights and freedoms go hand in hand with those of others.
7) The participants in the Plenary Session strongly showed awareness of the need for authentic dialogue between believers of different religions, especially between Christians and Muslims (cf. EMCC 69).
8) In this context, relations based on “spiritual emulation” were considered important.
9) Thus, if dialogue between Christians and Muslims is indispensable everywhere, it is especially so in western societies, in order to improve mutual knowledge and understanding, as well as reciprocal respect and peace.
10) In any case, while it is necessary to welcome Muslim immigrants with respect for their religious freedom, it is likewise indispensable for them to respect the cultural and religious identity of the host societies.
11) It was also deemed vital to distinguish between what the receiving societies can and cannot tolerate in Islamic culture, what can be respected or shared with regard to followers of other religions (see EMCC 65 and 66), and to have the possibility of giving indications in this regard also to policymakers, towards a proper formulation of civil legislation, with due respect for each one’s competence.
12) This means also proposing a model of religious dialogue which is not only conversation, nor just listening to one another, but which reaches a mutual revelation of each one’s own profound spiritual convictions.
13) It is therefore important to accompany the dialogue partner in the process of thinking out the ethical and actual dimensions, and not only the theological and religious ones, of the consequences of requests addressed to civil society, while duly respecting the distinction between civil and religious dialogue.
14) Given the reaffirmed importance of the principle of reciprocity (see EMCC 64), confirmed by the Holy Father in his talk to the participants in the Plenary Session, it is thus necessary to move towards a distinction between the civil and the religious spheres also in Islamic countries.
15) In any case, it is fundamental, in this context, to distinguish between the West and Christianity, because often Christian values no longer inspire the attitude, position or actions (also with regard to public opinion) in the so-called western world (see EMCC 60).
16) The participants of the Plenary Session also expressed the hope that in those areas where Christians and Muslims ‘live together’, they may unite their efforts, together with all their other fellow citizens, to guarantee everyone, without distinction of religion, the full exercise of his/her rights and individual freedoms, personally and as a member of a community.
Situation in some Islamic-majority countries
17) On the other hand, in Islamic majority countries, Christians and immigrant workers in general, who are poor and without real contractual power, have great difficulty in having their human rights recognized. The latter, moreover, have very little possibility of having their cause respected before justice, because they can easily be punished or deported.
18) The Church is therefore called to help Christian migrants in those countries, as well as in the whole world, in a context of due respect for legality and an interest in the formulation of just legislations concerning human mobility and the legal protection of all those involved. However, there were participants who called to mind that, in the different countries, the situation should be such that it would not be necessary for their citizens to go abroad in order to survive.
19) Moreover, in conformity with the directives of the Conciliar Decree Christus Dominus (no. 18), the Church has to ensure that the faithful who are not adequately catered for by the ordinary, i.e. territorial, pastoral ministry on account of their mobility, or are entirely deprived of it, are provided with a specific and even integrated pastoral care. This is true also in Islamic-majority countries.
20) In these countries, it is the task of the local Church to welcome immigrants and itinerants, in spite of a scanty personnel and perhaps inadequate structures.
21) In this respect dialogue and collaboration are necessary between the Church of origin of migrants and itinerants and that in their destination countries, for their spiritual care. This is in fact a general rule for all countries (cf. EMCC 70 and 50-55).
22) In addition international migrants must also be helped to make their own contribution to the community where they live, and to the local portion of the People of God.
23) At the same time, the receiving community should develop a sense of solidarity towards immigrants and others who are in similar circumstances.
Solicitude of the Church in the various sectors of human mobility
The participants in the Plenary Session also considered the various sectors of migration and itinerancy. Everyone was convinced that with regard to migrants:
24) The Church must take care that they are properly integrated, with due respect for each one’s culture and religion (cf. Pope John Paul, Message for the World Day of Peace 2001, no. 8 and Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2005, no. 3).
25) Therefore the Church must encourage dialogue that is intercultural and social, as well as inter-religious, with respect for due distinctions ( cf. Pope John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 2001, no. 12).
For the various sectors, the following were observed particularly:
26) The need to create bonds of friendship, in an atmosphere of respect for cultural and religious differences, also with people who think of going back to their place of origin, like migrants, or with foreign (international) students who will be the future leaders of their countries.
27) For refugees and foreign students, but not only for these, it was felt desirable to set up chaplaincies.
28) With regard to pilgrimages, the need was underlined to urge pilgrims to seek God’s countenance also in the believers of other religions.
29) In airports, crossroads of varied people, and in railway stations, hope was expressed for the presence of specifically Catholic chapels there, or places of prayer, even multi-religious ones, when only those are possible.
30) In “Stella Maris” Centers (Apostleship of the Sea), it is worthwhile to continue welcoming also Muslim seafarers, with respectful spiritual assistance, when requested.
31) With respect to the gypsy population, object of marginalization, xenophobia and racism, it was deemed necessary to fortify the maturity of democratic societies and their capacity to understand and respect the social, cultural and religious diversity of this people (cf. Guidelines for a Pastoral Care of Gypsies, 50).
32) As far as the “women of the street” are concerned - given that poverty and the trafficking of human beings often lead to selling one’s body, and that prostitution may depend on Christians and Muslims – it is considered necessary to build awareness, with the whole society as target.
33) However a renewed commitment is called for to involve women in decision making, especially in issues affecting them, as well as in the work of convincing parents to provide also girls with education equivalent to that given to boys, which should obviously include ethical formation.
Schools and education
The participants in the Plenary Session laid great emphasis on the fact that:
34) It is important to assure education to the new generations, also because the school has a fundamental role to play in overcoming the conflict of ignorance and prejudices, and to have a correct and objective knowledge of the other’s religion, with special attention to freedom of conscience and religion (cf. EMCC 62). Moreover, for Christians, provisions will be made to give them the basis for an evangelical discernment of the religious experience of believers in other religions (cf. EMCC 65) and of the signs of the times.
35) It is therefore indispensable to work for a verification of textbooks also regarding the presentation of history in relation to the religions, which shapes one’s identity, and transmits an image of the other’s religious identity.
36) In any event it is necessary to delve more deeply into studies, teachings and research regarding the various faces of historical and/or contemporary Islam, including the varying degrees of its acceptance of sound modernity (cf. EMCC 66).
37) Muslim parents and religious leaders must be helped to understand the righteous intentions of the western educational systems and the concrete consequences of their refusal of the education imparted in the schools of these systems within which their children live.
States and religious freedom
38) Since, very often, it is the State that gives “form” to Islam in certain countries of Islamic majority, organizes its worship, interprets its spirit, transmits its heritage, thus giving the whole of society a globally Islamic character, the non-Muslims very often feel that they are second-class citizens. For Christian immigrants therefore the difficulty is even greater.
39) It is therefore necessary to work hard everywhere so that what prevails would be a culture of ‘living together’ between host and immigrant populations, in a spirit of mutual civic understanding and respect for everyone’s human rights. It is also necessary to search ways for reconciliation and of purifying memories (cf. EMCC 65). We must also become advocates in defense of religious freedom - our constant imperative - and of common good, and procure respect for minorities, which is an unquestionable sign of true civilization.
40) It was observed with satisfaction that many States of Islamic majority have established diplomatic relations with the Holy See, thus becoming more sensitive in guaranteeing human rights, affirming the will to establish intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, in the framework of sound plurality.
41) In this context, it is necessary to deplore, in some countries, the restrictions of human rights, especially when linked to religious differences, and the absence of the freedom also to change one’s religion. It is hoped, however, that the public authorities of the countries of origin of Christian emigrants will help their citizens, in Islamic countries, achieve the effective exercise of religious freedom.
42) Those countries are thus encouraged to create spaces for exchange with countries of Islamic majority, on themes regarding universal common good, respect for minorities, human rights and especially religious freedom, foundation of all freedoms.
43) In any case, the Church must continue its initiatives of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, at different levels, especially when these are facilitated by political leaders.
44) Collaboration between Christian and Muslim institutions to bring aid to individuals and populations in need, without any discrimination, is an effective sign that destroys prejudices and closure towards mutual and reasonable openness.
45) The growing extent to which Muslims and Christians ‘live together’ can provide an opportunity for collaborating together, in view of a more peaceful world, respectful of each one’s identity and more united in the service of common good, seeing that we all constitute one human family, which is in need of hope (cf. EMCC 101-103).
46) In this context, collaboration among the various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Episcopal Conferences and the particular Churches is of capital importance.
47) A factor of unity, in legitimate diversity, will be the awareness of the dignity of every human person, whatever may be his race, culture, citizenship or religion. This is a value that is being affirmed more and more universally, in spite of all the incoherence and its practical denial in daily life.
48). In this context the participants in the Plenary Session paid particular attention to the African continent, which is in special need of political stability and multilateral cooperation, towards its peaceful and integral development.
49) In this respect, too, some causes of tension and conflict were considered, with the hope that these situations would be resolved justly and quickly, also to prevent war, violence and terrorism. It is in any case necessary to avoid the abusive use of religion to inculcate hatred for believers of other religions, or for ideological and political reasons.
50) It is therefore hoped that Muslim and Christian intellectuals, in the name of a common humanism and of their respective beliefs, would pose to themselves the dramatic questions linked to the use of violence, often still perpetrated in the name of their religion.
The Role of Mass Media
51) It is recognized that the media are particularly important for the creation of an appropriate climate of understanding and respect, as they give information on religious matters. Journalists and mass media operators, in general, should therefore assume their own responsibilities especially with regard to information, and not only concerning freedom of speech, in a world that is becoming more and more globalized.
52) Mass media can also give an important contribution to the “formation” (and, unfortunately, vice-versa, the deformation) of Christians and Muslims.
We conclude this final document noting the great satisfaction of the participants regarding the content, work method and up-to-dateness of this Plenary Session, which roused great interest.
Vatican City, 19 June 2006