Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
on the Move - N°
85, April 2001
Regional Meeting of National Directors
for the Pastoral Care of Migration
in Asia and the Pacific
(Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 22-24 September 1999)
The meeting, convened by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care
of Migrants and Itinerant People, was opened by Bishop Bosco Lin, President
of the Episcopal Commission on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant
People of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference. He reminded the participants
of the relevance of the meeting, but also of the tragic circumstances
in which it was taking place as a disastrous earthquake had just hit Taiwan.
The President of the Pontifical Council, Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao,
indicated that the meeting was part of a broader initiative, intended
to gather the directors of the pastoral care for migrants in the four
regions of the world and to conclude the process with a general meeting
in Rome in October, 2000. Representatives from the Church in Australia,
Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua
New Guinea, the Philippines, Saipan, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UAE attended
The objective of the meeting was to bring the practice
and the norms that the Church has established on the care of migrants
to the regional level, and at the same time solicit from the regions their
specific approach deriving from their specific context. At the meeting,
a three-step methodology was adopted. After an introduction on points
taken from documents of the Holy See or messages of Pope John Paul II,
as well as on aspects derived from the teachings of the Church in Asia,
the participants shared their experiences, highlighting specific situations
and issues, and concluded with some recommendations.
1. Migration in Asia and the Pacific today.
There are two major migration systems in the region.
Australia and New Zealand welcome permanent migrants, while in the rest
of the region migration is basically temporary. The system of migration
for settlement provides the best guarantees for the protection of the
dignity of migrants and the opportunities for development. However, such
a system is not without problems, including restrictions introduced in
the access to benefits on the part of newly-arrived migrants, restrictions
in the annual overall intake of migrants, and difficulties in the access
to social mobility, particularly for those who have resettled as refugees.
Although a humanitarian component is included, the selection of migrants
has increasingly privileged skilled workers.
On the other hand, labor migration, which is prevalent
in the rest of the Pacific and throughout Asia, rests on strict temporariness.
Workers are admitted for short contracts that are non-renewable at times.
The system is heavily influenced by the role of labor recruiters and brokers,
who skim a considerable portion of the migration profits, while migrants
are turned into indentured laborers until fees are paid. It lacks adequate
protection in terms of labor and migration laws and migrants are often
at the mercy of exploiting employers.
Women are increasingly part of the migration experience.
This derives from "the comparative advantage of women's disadvantages"
as migrant women are hired because they are economical, flexible and willing
to take up jobs shunned by local men and women. This is a consequence
of the occupational selectivity of immigration policies, and of the aggressive
policies of the countries of origin. Consequently, migrant women are particularly
placed in vulnerable situations.
Political and economic instability in the region has
caused flows of refugees into neighboring countries. After the end of
the Vietnamese crisis, refugees escaped from strife in Cambodia and Burma.
Thailand, although not a signatory to the Geneva Convention, has repeatedly
functioned as a country of first asylum. More recently, turmoil in Aceh
and the tragedy in East Timor caused massive displacement of people. It
is possible that some of them will seek resettlement in other countries,
such as Australia.
Irregular migration has become widespread even in the
Asia-Pacific region. In Australia and New Zealand the phenomenon is relatively
under control, thanks to the geographic conditions and the administrative
measures adopted, which discourage irregular flows of migrants. Uncompromising
treatment of recent arrivals also contributes to reinforce a message that
irregular migration is not tolerated. In Asia, irregular migration is
present in two major forms: overstaying after the expiry of the visa granting
entry as visitors, students, trainees or workers; or entering without
proper documentation. The first form is rampant particularly in East Asia,
while the second is prevalent in Southeast Asia. The difference is determined,
among others, by the long borders shared by countries of origin and receiving
countries in Southeast Asia, unlike those in East Asia. Irregular migration
shares the same root causes with regular migration and is a function of
the discrepancies between market forces and migration policies, of irregular
employment and recruitment practices, of restrictive policies and of risk-taking
choices by migrants. The worst form of irregular migration, which is increasing
worldwide but also in the region, is trafficking of migrants. Reaping
high profits from desperate people, traffickers victimize migrants by
dumping them over borders, pushing them into illegal activities or keeping
them in an indentured condition.
In its various forms, migration is the result of the
current capitalist form of development, which globalization is expanding.
The increasing integration of economies through the free circulation of
capital, goods, investments and services, is generating widespread displacement
and marginalization, increasing the gap between developed and developing
countries, and the migration pressure of potential migrants. The need
of developing countries to catch up fast with development leads to ignoring
protection measures and the right of people to control their destiny.
"The Church's response will be significant as long as it
considers migration among its top priorities" (IV World Congress
on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, 1998). As recommended
by the VI FABC Plenary Assembly of 1995, the care for migrants in Asia
should be given adequate attention by the Episcopal Conferences and
individual bishops in Asia, particularly of the churches most involved
in it, and should be approached as a task of the Christian community,
as a missionary community that welcomes the stranger in her midst, not
just as a duty of a few pastoral agents assigned to it. The same holds
for the care of migrants in the Pacific.
2. The response of the Church
The Church in Australia and New Zealand, an immigrant
Church in its origin, has organized already a long time ago the provision
of care for new migrants, first from Eastern and Southern Europe and more
recently from South America and Asia. At the structural level, the Church
has diocesan and national offices. The care for migrants is provided by
the local communities and by the care of chaplains for migrants. Various
statements have been issued by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference
as well as by local bishops and a statement is currently being prepared
in Australia to express the collective approach of the bishops to the
challenges that migration presents.
Churches in Asia have increased their awareness and
capacity to respond to the needs of migrants particularly in the last
two decades, when the issue became more relevant. Receiving churches are
often inadequately equipped to respond to the needs of migrants. In most
cases, missionaries already present in the country and familiar with the
language and culture of the migrants turned their attention to this new
issue. In other cases, the Church specifically invited missionaries to
help in this task. Currently, various Episcopal conferences or dioceses
have organized a commission for the care of migrants in general, and sometimes
for specific migrant groups. Many dioceses provided additional structures,
such as centers and shelters. The Church in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia
issued pastoral letters or statements on the care of migrants.
Among the Churches of origin, the Church in the Philippines,
the second highest country of emigration in Asia, has dedicated considerable
effort in creating awareness and speaking out in defense of migrants.
The Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) comprises
various apostolates related to human mobility. Chaplains involved in the
care of Filipinos abroad are many and specific efforts have been dedicated
to improve their action and coordination, and two pastoral letters have
been issued on this topic.
While appreciating the effort and the achievements already
obtained, there are various issues that require further attention. Among
them, the attention to all migrants, not just Catholic migrants, is very
relevant, as the Church in Asia-Pacific is mostly a minority group and
migrants are of all religious convictions. Second, a proper approach to
the issue of irregular migrants must be established. Finally, further
discussion is needed with regards to the specific characteristics and
methods of the pastoral care of migrants in Asia.
Since migration is not a fact that exists in a vacuum,
but very much part of the major forces that are shaping society today,
the pastoral care of migrants must be incorporated in the general understanding
of the pastoral care that the churches in Asia have elaborated. A complete
understanding of such an approach can be derived from the various documents
issued by the Asian churches. However, it is relevant to mention succinctly
that the Church in Asia has set out on a path of renewal, which will receive
a new emphasis at the Seventh Assembly of the FABC to be held in January
2000. The Assembly will center on the final document of the Asian Synod.
Such a path of renewal rests on the conviction that, among death-dealing
forces, there are also signs of hope, in particular "the growing
consciousness regarding human dignity and empowerment of the poor, the
growing voices of groups and peoples for humanized development, and the
cries of the marginalized groups for participatory and democratic governance"
(VI FABC Plenary Assembly, 1995). Thus the Church in Asia is committed
to the preferential option for the poor, to a dialogue with other cultures
and religions, to a style of collegiality, communion and co-responsibility,
to a pastoral method of approaching pastoral issues and to establishing
a communion of communities.
Undertaking the care of migrants as integral pastoral
care, churches consider all migrants, including irregular migrants and
sometimes most specifically irregular migrants, as part of their concern.
In particular, the Church reaffirms that migrants, even though in an irregular
situation, still hold rights, in particular human and labor rights; that
before focusing on the irregularities of migrants, the irregularities
committed against them should be tackled; and that the system which generates
or condones irregular migration in time of convenience should be reformed.
In examining the relevance churches are giving to the
issue of migration, it became apparent that, although with differences
and notwithstanding its inclusion among the concerns at the 1995 VI FABC
Plenary Assembly, migration is not a top priority for the churches in
Asia. Sometimes this is the result of limited awareness of the issue,
its dimensions and consequences. The group feels that migration should
rise in the priorities of the Asian churches. At the same time, however,
it feels that what is really relevant is a growth in the self-understanding
of the Church in Asia, "a new way of being Church in Asia".
In this regard, migration can be considered both a symptom and a parameter.
The type of care for migrants that a church provides reveals the understanding
of the universal character and of the nature of mission that a church
has. Thus, increasing awareness for the needs of migrants, instead of
detracting the attention of the Church from other pressing issues, produces
a general reawakening on the values of the Gospel and the implications
of mission. In fact, migration brings mission at our door.
In implementing the recommendation of the Instruction on the
Pastoral Care of Migrants, Conferences of Bishops and local ordinaries
should see to it that appropriate pastoral structures are set up and
provided with adequate human and material resources. They are to celebrate
annual "Migration Day" (DPMC art. 24, sec. 2) as convenient
and give adequate dissemination to the message of the Pope.
3. The parish, a place of welcome
In the words of John Paul II, the parish "is a
privileged expression of community
the place where all the members
of the community come together and interact" (Message for World Migrant's
Day, 1999). The parish is also the most common form under which a migrant
encounters the Church while abroad. Thus the various aspects of the relations
between the parish and migration need to be examined.
a. Do parishes welcome migrants? A variety of experiences exists
in the Churches in Asia and the Pacific. Such a variety does not rest
simply on the different attitudes of parishioners and migrants. It is
often a function of the number of migrants who become part of a parish,
whether permanently or temporarily. While a small number of migrants can
easily be welcomed, a large number is perceived as threatening, and in
some cases migrants simply become the majority. It appears that progress
is needed not simply in welcoming migrants, but in making them members
of the parish and the parish council. In this regard, it is important
for attention to migrants not to be delegated to some specialist, but
be the concern of the community, along with appropriate programs for awareness,
formation, and coordination, wherein migrants progressively become participants.
b. How can the parish welcome migrants? Existing experiences need
to be shared and circulated. Providing liturgical services, physical structures
and programs is certainly important. However, it is possible that although
migrants may be present, they do not become part of the Christian community.
Thus, common activities are to be encouraged. Likewise, a common participation
in a parish from a variety of ethnic origins is to be preferred over the
multiplication of specific structures for specific groups. The multicultural
parish is encouraged to experience the universality of the Church, provided
that cultures do not remain juxtaposed. Welcoming migrants in a parish
is not an issue of integration (as against ghettoism or assimilation)
but of growth as a Christian community with a universal awareness of its
c. What is the role of "Basic Ecclesial Communities"
(BECs) in welcoming migrants? In Asia, local Churches have increasingly
adopted BECs as basic forms of organizing the disciples and acquiring
a new awareness of the role of the laity in the vocation and mission of
the Church. The implementation of BECs among migrants, and within parishes
where migrants are present, can be very effective.
d. Migrants must be formed to welcome their fellow migrants. It is not
an uncommon experience among migrants, once settled in the receiving country
for a long or short term, to develop forms of intolerance or rejection
toward newcomers. The evangelization of migrants begins by turning them
into mature Christians capable of welcoming the latest arrivals.
However, welcoming migrants within the Church and particularly
in the parish is not the only issue. Migrants need to be welcomed in the
receiving society. In this regard, the Asian experience is clearly revealing
in that migrants are welcome only to the extent that they are useful.
The recent crisis has revealed in dramatic forms that once the conditions
of the economy change, migrants easily become the scapegoat and the target
for repatriation. The Church must raise its voice towards a change from
an understanding of migrants as commodities to welcoming them as persons.
Welcome on the part of the Church is not a private but a community
concern. For this reason it cannot be delegated to some persons in charge
detached from the general interest of the parish community. It is the
pastors' task to develop a suitable program of sensitization and formation
of the parish community. This is an aspect of evangelization, which
is to be addressed also to migrants. In fact, they must learn to welcome
those who will come after them, migrants just as they are.
The parishes should institute support groups to assist migrant
In responding to the needs of all migrants, including non-Catholics,
Churches in Asia and the Pacific are to seek the cooperation of other
Christian churches and other religions in a dialogue to promote the
dignity of persons and the unity of the human family.
4. The protection of the human rights of migrants
In the permanent migration system of Australia and New
Zealand, migrants initially enjoy most of the rights of citizens and they
can acquire citizenship after 2-3 years of residence. Such a system ensures
that the rights of migrants are adequately respected. However, in the
labor migration system, although the situation varies from country to
country, migrants enjoy limited protection and have limited access to
redress of grievances.
The issue of the protection of the rights of migrants
in Asia must be included in the more general discussion on human rights
in Asia. Such a discussion was stirred up some years ago when it was argued
that the human rights codified in the Universal Declaration and in the
Covenants are an expression of the western culture and are therefore not
quite valid for Asia, which has its own original approach to human rights.
In particular, human rights as codified in the covenants are based on
an individualistic and conflictual approach, while Asians value the common
good and a consensual approach to reality. In addition, the Confucian
mentality and Asian values have shown how they function in producing the
prolonged development of the region (the Asian miracle), demonstrating
that it is not necessary to embrace the Western mentality to achieve development.
The discussion, however, found some direction during the Vienna Conference
of 1993, in which the universality and indivisibility of human rights
were reaffirmed. Recently, the financial crisis in Asia cast some doubts
on Asian values, and pointed towards the need for more transparency. To
some, it is apparent that disregard of human rights presumably based on
Asian values is mostly an ideological stand to slow down the democratization
It is also clear that a new threat to human rights derives
from the invasive role of transnational corporations in this age of globalization,
where governments renounce to standards and protection of workers to compete
for investments. Migration, as a function of economic development, is
also affected by this downgrading of standards.
The church, "expert in humanity", considers
the protection of human rights inherent in pastoral care. Thus the care
of migrants implies the protection of their rights. "The protection
of the rights of migrant workers has also to be the responsibility of
the local community and can be the catalyst for the protection and promotion
of their dignity" (Symposium on Filipino Migrant Workers in Asia,
1993). Churches have organized various activities in this regards, from
hiring lawyers, to challenging associations of Catholic lawyers to provide
pro-bono services to migrants, to organizing para-legal groups and exposing
cases of abuse. This is also an area in which sharing of experiences and
practices can be very productive. Specifically, the Church encourages
governments to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of
the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Convinced that pastoral care is integral attention for everyone
and for the whole human person, the churches foster the promotion and
protection of the rights of migrants. In this regard, the churches value
the dialogue with civil society and participate in soliciting the ratification
of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All
Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Aware of the large number of migrant women in Asia and of the
vulnerable occupations they undertake, specific attention should be
given to ensure that missionaries for migrants are gender sensitive,
that women participate in the care for migrants, and that migrant women
are protected and have access to support initiatives, such as legal
help and shelters.
Considering the stress that migration brings to the family, both
for those left behind as well as for those who migrate, and the fact
that it "finds itself the victim of society, of the delays and
slowness with which it acts, and even of its blatant injustice"(Familiaris
Consortio, 46), specific initiatives should be organized for the protection
of the sanctity of the family, such as support groups for the families
in parishes of origin and initiatives to create a community in receiving
parishes or places of work.
To respond to the plight of migrants in an irregular situation
and migrants who are victims of trafficking, and to provide guidance
to the Christian communities and the pastoral agents involved in their
care, as urged by John Paul II in his Message for World Migration Day
1995, bishops in Asia and the Pacific should issue a statement on irregular
migration. They should recommend that some form of amnesty be provided
to irregular migrants, as an expression of reconciliation as suggested
by the Holy Father (IV World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants
and Refugees, 1998).
5. Asia-Pacific Migration Desk
In the discussion on how best to organize for advocacy,
reference was made to the Asian Migration Desk. In the 1992 Symposium
in Manila, the Asian Migration Desk was already recommended. The issue
was reiterated in the 1993 Meeting in Hong Kong on the care of Filipinos
abroad, in the VI Assembly of FABC of 1995 in Manila. Finally, the 1996
Symposium in Manila mandated that it be implemented on an experimental
basis for three years, assigning its implementation to the ECMI of the
Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. It is clear that those
who are involved in the issue of migration see the need for such an instrument
to facilitate their work. After discussing the issue, the group agreed
to reiterate the recommendation that an Asia-Pacific Migration Desk be
established within the FABC and the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences
of Oceania (FCBCO), basically with the functions already determined in
1996, with a particular stress in facilitating the networking of the national
directors/executive secretaries of the commissions more actively involved
in the issue of migration. It was also agreed to ask the good offices
of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant
People to present the issue to the VII General Assembly of the FABC, which
will take place in January 2000, and to the FCBCO.
The group of National Directors asked for the recognition of
the Asian Migration Desk, with the role and the functions defined on
several occasions in preceding meetings at various levels, as an operative
body within the FABC. This body is meant to exercise pastoral functions.
The aforementioned petition should be presented to the General Assembly
scheduled for January 2000. For this undertaking, the group requests
the good offices of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of
Migrants and Itinerant People.
6. Migration Day and the Message of the Pope
Mandated by the Instruction on the Pastoral Care of
Migrants (DPMC, art. 24 sec.2), Migration Day has been celebrated in different
forms and with different emphasis in the various Churches. Some have it
as a tradition established long time ago, as in Australia; others, like
Japan, have it as International Day to include the concern for national
migrants abroad; others speak of New Arrivals Day, as in Hong Kong, to
emphasize the importance of immigration from the mainland; most have it
as a tradition established in the past decade, because of the new relevance
of migration; some churches have not started celebrating it so far. Typically,
posters are produced, the message of the Holy Father is translated and
circulated, appropriate liturgies are prepared and in some countries a
collection is set aside for the needs of the pastoral care for migrants.
As for the time of celebration, each country, and sometimes each diocese
in the country, selects a different date. It seems impossible to agree
on a common day for its celebration in all the Churches in Asia-Pacific.
As to the suggestion to link up with NGOs and utilize December 18 (the
day on which the Migrant Convention was adopted) as an International Day
of Solidarity with Migrants, the date does not seem particularly suitable
for the Churches.
The Message of the Pope is greatly appreciated and widely
utilized. It is a message that sets the theme for the celebration, selected
by the Pope himself at the suggestion of the Pontifical Council. Recommendations
were made to ensure that the message is published on time, to be able
to include it among the material prepared for Migration Day, and that
it be kept short for stronger impact.
Migration Day must be considered an important occasion to involve
the community in the problems and welcome of migrants. Well-formed lay
persons have the task of helping the local population to welcome migrants,
not as a tool of production but as brothers to incorporate in the community
and as persons with whom to establish human and also inter-religious
dialogue. If they have not yet done so, the local Churches, especially
in countries where migration is dominant, are invited to institute the
celebration of Migration Day as soon as possible.
Echoing the recommendation of John Paul II at the end of the
IV World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees and
repeated in the Message for Migration Day 1999, Churches in Asia and
the Pacific are to be active in promoting the reduction, if not the
total cancellation, of the international debt of developing nations,
that greatly reduces the opportunities for development, while perpetuating
the root causes that force people to migrate.
7. The pastoral care for migrants in the Asia-Pacific
In reflecting on the various aspects and forms which
DPMC provides for the care of migrants, the various Churches described
the actual forms that have been adopted. In Australia there are neither
personal parishes nor missions for the care of souls, and neither are
there migration delegates. Instead, there are many chaplains for migrants,
two-thirds of whom are religious, and lay people are getting more involved.
Also in the Indonesian case, lay people are active, particularly in regard
to migrants in detention centers. The experience of Hong Kong is that
in addition to the care provided by parishes there are specific initiatives
(the center for Filipinos, three shelter houses, two Filipino chaplains,
two full-time Filipino sisters and two Chinese social workers). Specific
problems were mentioned, particularly regarding the right of people to
have liturgy celebrated in their own rite even when specific circumstances
seem to discourage it. Another question was the issue of visas to chaplains,
which governments do not always grant or can easily withdraw.
The Instruction on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, the
document that regulates the care of migrants in the Church, is being revised.
This was encouraged by changes in the structure of the Church as well
as by substantial changes in the form of migration and the needs for the
care of migrants. The revision of the canonical part has already been
completed, while the work on the pastoral component needs to be completed.
The contribution of the Churches in Asia could be their
original approach to Christian life, including the specific structures
and approaches adopted for the care of migrants. In this regard, the DPMC
approach clearly reflected mostly the situation of migration of Europe,
North America and Oceania. Churches in Asia have not elaborated a comprehensive
approach to migration. However, some ideas can be derived from the general
concepts that are prevalent in the life of the Church in Asia. For instance,
the care of migrants should involve the whole community, not just some
specialists. It is necessary for the laity to be involved, with its specific
role. The charism of religious congregations working in the field of migration
are to be considered at the service of the Church. It is appropriate for
this work to be ecumenical and inter-religious at times.
The Church in Asia is still in the process of developing
an Asian approach to the care of migrants and cannot disregard the fact
that migrants need a specific pastoral care. This means that the pastoral
care for migrants must be considered distinct from the ordinary pastoral
care that every diocese carries out for its own community. Furthermore,
it should not be confused with the care directed to the various groups
in the local community, such as the youth, the sick, the elderly, the
laborers, the couples, etc. The Church defines migrants as those who,
for any reason whatsoever, live outside their own country or ethnic community.
This is where the specific pastoral care for migrants originates. Being
persons belonging to another ethnic community and therefore of another
tongue and culture, the general pastoral care directed to the local community
is not sufficient. It is necessary to devise one that is appropriate for
If the local Church is not equipped to respond to such
a need, it should ask the cooperation of the Church of origin (DPMC, 31).
However, a specific pastoral care should not lead to the establishment
of parallel churches. In this sense, the chaplain or missionary for migrants
must act "as a human bridge between two cultures and two mentalities"
(Church and People on the Move, 6) and encourage them to overcome separation.
Likewise, the care for migrants should last only as long as it is considered
The Church should carry out a pastoral care of migrants that
is "appropriate to their needs, and not inferior to that available
to other Catholics in the dioceses" (Exsul Familia). It should
not be the work only of detached missionaries, but of the whole local
Church, priests, religious and lay people. It is the whole local Church
that must pay attention to migrants, be ready to welcome them and undergo
a cultural osmosis.
Priests must encourage the commitment of lay people in receiving
countries, especially when it is a matter of supporting the incorporation
of foreigners, providing for their human needs and social progress and
allowing them to exercise temporal responsibilities.
8. Cooperation between Churches of origin and receiving
The response of the Churches in the Asia-Pacific region
to migration gives witness to a factual cooperation among the Churches,
best expressed by sending missionaries among migrants. Such a cooperation
is usually solicited by the receiving Churches facing mission needs which
they are not sufficiently equipped to answer. However, cooperation is
also encouraged by Churches of origin, particularly when the awareness
and concern for migrants abroad increase. In this regard, the widespread
effort of the Church in the Philippines, through ECMI, to bring about
the cooperation among Filipino missionaries through meetings in the various
regions of the world, has been very significant and effective. Such a
cooperation is also useful in ensuring that priests who are willing to
go abroad are genuinely interested in being missionaries for migrants.
Unfortunately, the need for priests sometimes pushes bishops in receiving
countries to bypass procedures mutually agreed upon with the Churches
of origin. "There is need for greater on-going dialogue between the
Church of origin and the receiving Church" (Symposium on Filipino
Migrant Workers in Asia, 1993).
Changes in migration and in the life of the Church have
given more relevance to the role of the laity in caring for migrants.
There is also a need for cooperation to facilitate the formation and participation
of lay persons in this sector. In fact, formation of both missionaries
and laity has become crucial, since working with migrants does require
preparation. However, programs in this regard are lacking. It is urgent
for concrete programs to be formulated through cooperation between the
various offices involved in this field (Pontifical Council for Migrants,
Office for Human Development, Scalabrini Migration Center). A commendable
initiative, utilized for instance by the diocese of Osaka, consists in
sending those who are being trained to work in the field of migration
to the migrants' countries of origin. There they learn the migrants' language
and culture, but most of all they personally experience life in migration.
Cooperation is most useful in responding to the difficult
situations in which migrants find themselves. Handling of cases and serving
migrants in detention, for instance by providing assistance for repatriation,
are examples of concrete forms of cooperation. In this field, establishing
and fostering cooperation with the NGOs involved in migration is very
effective. The Church should play a more active role in promoting the
involvement of and networking with NGOs, especially those of Christian
The new face of migration being witnessed in Asia, with
the widespread participation of non-Christian migrants, has broadened
the concept of cooperation among Churches. Sometimes such a cooperation
is impossible or irrelevant, while cooperation with non-Christian religious
leaders, as initiated in Thailand and Taiwan, is the only way to benefit
Cooperation with the Pontifical Council is appreciated
and should be expanded in practical ways, keeping in mind the specific
role of animation and encouragement that the Council plays. The good offices
of the Pontifical Council might be requested to explore ways to ensure
that the pastoral care for migrants in Asia does not continue to depend
on contributions from Europe. The Pontifical Council, on its part, appreciates
receiving documents produced by the various Episcopal Commissions, in
particular, the annual report of their activities.
Dialogue between churches of origin and receiving churches is
to be encouraged, including the use of exposures and seminars in order
to understand the causes and dynamics of migration and to appreciate
the features of each other's Christian traditions.
Since the pastoral care of migrants is a specific pastoral care,
it requires appropriate characteristics. Priests in charge of the pastoral
care of migrants should have a good knowledge of the migrants' idiom,
or better, language. This means the totality of the forms by which they
express their thoughts, feelings and, in particular, their religiosity.
If no priests are adequately prepared, Bishops have to provide for their
preparation or send for them from the migrants' countries of origin.
It is also along these lines that the collaboration between Church of
origin and Church of arrival is expressed.
9. Migration and Mission
After reflecting on the characteristics and requirements
of the mission to migrants (language remains a crucial aspect in living
and expressing the faith, as well as in participating fully in the life
of local Christian communities), the other side of the coin also needs
to be examined. Evangelizing migrants is a missionary activity, and its
implications go beyond the ordinary pastoral care organized by the Church.
Many examples were offered on evangelization through witness. Migrants
have become a privileged object of evangelization, as the new poor to
whom the Gospel is proclaimed. In this regard, although in some respects
migration in Asia is a sign of a society which abuses and mortifies life,
at the same time, it is also a "kairos", a privileged moment
to live and witness the Gospel.
However, migrants are also subjects of evangelization,
particularly when they are capable of giving witness to the faith. Unfortunately,
various situations derived from migration (loneliness, need for profit,
irregular situations) often push migrants into becoming counter-witnesses
of the Gospel. Mission among migrants does not only imply preparing them
to remain faithful to the values of the gospel, but also to become capable
of proclaiming it with their life.
In Redemptoris Missio (37) John Paul II indicated that
the concept of mission is being modified by the major social changes in
society today. In Asia, Christians are required to constantly dialogue
with persons of different convictions and beliefs. Thus, they have learned
that mission is much more than conversion and that establishing dialogue
and peace in society is part of the Christian mission. Migration can be
considered one of those forces that have an impact on the concept of mission.
However, mission from the perspective and experience of mission with and
among migrants has to be more profoundly rediscovered.
Migration has always served as a vehicle for transmitting the
faith throughout the history of the Church and in the evangelization
of whole countries. To this end, those who are involved in the pastoral
care of this phenomenon should first of all take care of the catechesis
of adults, promote Christian formation and growth in the faith of individual
migrants, encourage the active celebration of the sacraments of Christian
life starting from baptism, foster the formation in prayer of the migrant
community, work for a coherent commitment in giving a witness of charity.
These are the necessary means for migrants to become agents of communion
in diversity and collaborate effectively in the work of salvation.
In many countries where the majority belong to other Churches
or Christian denominations, the presence of Catholic migrants should
contribute to a more serene mutual understanding and, as a consequence,
to the ecumenical movement.
We salute the dawn of the new millennium with a Jubilee
year, the Lord's time of favor. It is a time for renewal and conversion,
a time for growth as a community of disciples, a time for dialogue and
evangelization. In the specific mission with migrants, we are called to
work toward the re-establishment of the original order of God, broken
when migrants are forced to go abroad or are victimized in their experience;
we are asked to become instruments of reconciliation within societies
and groups ruled by divisiveness and self-interest; we are invited to
provide home and community for migrants separated from their homeland
and families. With migrants, we will work in the new millennium toward
a "holistic life,
a life with integrity and dignity, a life
of compassion and solidarity" (VI FABC Plenary Assembly). With migrants
we want to be at the service of the mission of the Son and the Spirit
for new heavens and a new earth, the Kingdom of God.