Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 103 (Suppl.), April 2007
THE SITUATION OF
FOREIGN STUDENTS IN THE WORLD
(an overview, the result of an inquiry)
Rev. Can. Charles DE HEMPTINNE
synthesis of the following questionnaire responses
Father Chris McCoy mÂa confié confidentiellement un rapport réalisé dernièrement en Angleterre sur la pastorale en milieu estudiantin. Le titre en est : « Dancing on the Edge ».
« Le premier Congrès mondial de la pastorale auprès des étudiants étrangers, constitue une nouvelle preuve de lÂattention de lÂEglise aux étudiants étrangers. Il apparaît en effet nécessaire de passer des interventions dÂurgence dispersées, à la formulation dÂun plan dÂassistance sociale et pastorale capable de répondre à leurs besoins et leurs attentes.
Une caractéristique de ce projet est quÂil comporte lÂengagement à accueillir. La communauté ecclésiale veut, dans un souci de disponibilité et dÂamitié, aller à la rencontre des étudiants de nÂimporte quelle origine, en prenant sincèrement à cÂur leur réussite humaine et professionnelle. En même temps, elle veut assumer la responsabilité spécifique quÂelle a envers les étudiants chrétiens, en qui elle voit autant de frères que la Communauté dÂorigine lui confie. Les jeunes immigrés, qui se reconnaissent partie de lÂEglise, doivent avoir un accès effectif à ses initiatives et à ses services.
LÂenjeu de ce processus dÂaccueil et dÂaide aux étudiants étrangers est de grande importance. Il en va non seulement de leur maturité humaine et professionnelle, mais aussi de la crédibilité des Eglises plus anciennes aux yeux des jeunes Eglises des Pays en voie de développement.
Les étudiants des pays en voie de développement, qui se sont perfectionnés à lÂétranger, peuvent offrir, grâce à leur préparation professionnelle, lÂimpulsion nécessaire pour sortir leur pays du sous-développement. Investir dans leur formation est, par conséquent, une des formes de coopération à privilégier.
Il est important que les étudiants eux-mêmes soient conscients des responsabilités quÂils ont envers leur patrie. Une des clés de son développement est entre leurs mains : quÂils ne se soustraitent pas à telles responsabilités ! QuÂils ne privent pas leur patrie des compétences quÂils ont acquises en tant que médecins, ingénieurs, agronomes, experts dans lÂun ou lÂautre champ de la vie en société.
En tant que Chrétiens, ceux-ci ne peuvent pas ne pas sentir lÂengagement à faire un choix évangélique pour le service des pauvres, devenant ainsi des pierres vivantes de la Communauté qui les a engendrés à la foi. Dans cette perspective, ceux-ci sÂoccuperont avec soin de leur propre perfectionnement culturel et de leur formation spirituelle, pour être des agents de paix et des messagers dÂun monde plus uni, davantage réconcilié et plus libre.
JÂexhorte, enfin les agents pastoraux à poursuivre avec détermination leur service dans le milieu particulièrement sensible dÂévangélisation et de promotion humaine. Je souhaite que des suggestions valables sortent de ce Congrès, de même quÂune impulsion renouvelée à lÂengagement international en vue de la promotion de la condition des étudiants étrangers, dont la présence doit être considérée de toute façon comme un facteur positif dÂenrichissement humain et culturel ».
Let us now build further on the foundations of that very encouraging exhortation of the late Pope John-Paul II!
answers to the questionnaire
1) Let me also thank those of you who made the effort of answering the questionnaire, namely, the chaplaincies mentioned on the first page. The answers to the questionnaire truly represent a very rich treasure of experiences and realizations in our sector of Âwelcoming, helping, guiding and preparing the international students for their future life, when they go back homeÂ.
2) Let us now reflect on the target group (les sujets, in French) of the students we deal with. What category of students falls specifically under our responsibility? Who have we to consider as members of our flock? Who are those whom we should shepherd so dearly ?
1) Their numbers vary of course a lot from country to country. (US 600,000; UK and Germany respectively 220,000; Austria and France respectively: 200,000; Japan 80,000)
We can consider that Âforeign studentsÂ represent, on the average, 12 to 16% of the total number of students in the Western World. Some countries (The Netherlands and Belgium, for instance) try to give more attention to African students (50% in Delft, for instance) and also quite often to female students. Most countries experience a sharp increase of Chinese students. On the other hand, in Canada, for instance, the foreign students represented, in 2003/2004, only 7% of the university population; and that was nearly double the 4% of a decade earlier. Whatever it may be, the total number of international students seems to grow steadily year after year. Switzerland seems to be the country where the percentage of foreign students is the highest: 40% in Geneva, 20.8% in Lausanne, 15.6% in Frieburg, and in Zurich, 21% in the polytechnic school and 13.5% in the University. Why is Switzerland so attractive? Beautiful nature, high mountains, pure air, ski resortsÂ who knows?
2) We can divide those students into the following categories:
- Students who come from developing countries.
Most of them are admirable people, whose real purpose is to acquire the necessary knowledge and techniques to be able to lead developing projects in their home countries.
Others, assuming that they can be more ÂeffectiveÂ as long as they are pursuing their student life abroad (Âéternels étudiantsÂ), betray in fact their first ideals with the risk of slipping little by little into the categories of true ÂimmigrantsÂ or ÂrefugeesÂ, without the necessary papers to be in order with the social laws of the host-country. The USA puts it as follows: ÂOne of the pastoral concerns includes helping the students maintain a balance between immersion in a new culture and maintaining ties with their own culture; helping to combat Âculture clashesÂ caused by insensitivity to cultural differences and addressing religious differences in the practice of ritual and liturgy.Â
- Students who come from the ex-communist countries from Eastern Europe, mostly thanks to scholarships from the ÂTempusÂ projects given by the E.U.
- Students from EU countries whose studies are partially financed by the ÂErasmus ProgramÂ of the European Union, so that they can pursue part of their studies at other Universities and High Schools inside the European Union.
- A small group of students are financially totally independent, as long as it goes, of course! Living thanks to the generosity of parents or some other wealthy donors, their situation can seem quite good for a certain time, but remains very fragile, as anything can happen at any time in the future.
- The growing number of Chinese students everywhere in the Western world is a new phenomenon. They are often the only child of the family. In most cases, their parents pay generously the necessary fees. Those students are very often hard working people, sustaining each other through associations of their own flock.
summary in french:
Qui sont ils, ces étudiants étrangers, dont nous nous sentons si responsables?
On ne peut donc pas les classer à proprement parler dans les catégories classiques de personnes « immigrées » ou « émigrées ». Peut-on alors parler dÂune sorte de « tourisme », mais où la « dolce farniente » serait remplacée par un travail intellectuel intense, constitué premièrement de lÂécoute attentive dÂun maître à penser, dÂun travail de réflexion personnelle, de mémoire, dÂaudace intellectuelle, dÂinnovation, etc.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
3) What are the needs of the international students?
- As we talk about students, we have to acknowledge that the first desire of every student is to be accepted by a University or a Technical High School of an internationally recognized academic standing, where he can get a good education, meeting interesting professors, receiving from them substantial teaching and good introduction for further studies and research work.
- So we should not forget that the best students aim, first and foremost, to get at the University or High School of they choice the best education and scientific training they can expect to receive. ThatÂs why the first environment the student has to become familiar with is the ÂUniversityÂ itself, its specific life and culture, as also everything that surrounds it. Luckily, most Colleges have an International Office and staff members who deal with overseas students.
- The second important, even essential, factor is, of course, to get the necessary scholarship or financial help in order to be able to make the dream of so many young people, especially of those who come from developing countries, come true. The questionnaire reveals different funds from where students can get such study-grants, namely, for instance:
The report of the ÂKatholischer Akademischer Ausländer DiestÂ says the following:
ÂAn increase in the internationalization of the universities is a process which is most desirable for the Catholic Church if it includes better access to education and research for the poorer countries of the globe and the creation of platforms for continent spanning, interdisciplinary and inter-religious meetings.
ÂThe process furthered since the middle of the 90s in Germany is at the same time under a pressure of globalization and Europeanization in view of the fact that an international educational market and a common European area of higher education are emerging. According to the latest data (2001/02), Germany already ranks third among the host countries world-wide (after the USA and Great Britain) with approx. 206,000 foreign students. This is an 11% share in the total number of studentsÂ.
These EU programs attract many students. They nowadays represent even more than half of the number of international students in the European Universities.
A matter of reflection would be: what political aims are pursued by those groups who attract international students to study in foreign countries? Is it a matter of Âbrain gainÂ or of Âbrain drainÂ, by some modern ÂheadhuntingÂ techniques?
But luckily, students are more than only ÂbrainsÂ to be filled with modern science. They have a body to be sheltered and looked after, a soul and a spirit to be fostered.
So, international students need, more than others, ÂStudent ResidencesÂ, where they can find a Âsafe home away from homeÂ, ÂStudent ClubsÂ for the need they have of meeting each other, exchanging their different cultures in a friendly atmosphere of dialoguing and respecting each othersÂ differences, and, last but not least, true ÂChaplainciesÂ, where they can find solace for the Heart, the Spirit and the Soul existing in the deepest self of every human being.
The aim of a Congress such as ours, is to exchange the experiences we have in welcoming, accompanying and guiding international students, helping them not only to succeed in their studies but also, as far as we can, to become true adults, with a high sense of responsibility for their own future, that of their families and, last but not least, the sustainable and harmonious development of their home countries.
4) The other urgent needs of the foreign students and how to satisfy them:
Le rapport Suisse le dit de cette manière: ÂDans nos universités, à cause du contexte culturel et confessionnel propre à la Suisse, il y a de facto une situation de pastorale Âcuménique auprès des étudiants, par le contact régulier et journalier mais aussi officiel et plus, structurel, entre les aumôniers catholiques et protestants. Les aumôneries et leurs équipes pastorales sont soit en relation Âcuménique étroite, soit structurée de manière Âcuménique officiellement. Elles élaborent des programmes dÂactions communes. Pour ce qui en est de la pastorale de dimension interreligieuse : elle varie selon les Universités. Elle va de la rencontre, du dialogue, du partage, de conférences, de cours, dÂétude, jusquÂà lÂaménagement et à la mise à disposition de lieux de prière ou des rencontre interreligieuses »
The Report of The Netherlands has it as follows: ÂThe needs of the students are rather religious: they want to worship in a language they can understand, this is in English as their second language. Secondly they want to know how to cope with secular society, which is predominant in The Netherlands. There are some, specially the Chinese students, who come to us for first evangelizationÂ Many students are happy that they are able to speak about ecumenical and interfaith situationsÂ . Co-operation with other Christian churches resulted in stimulating ecumenical dialogue in the field of pastoral work in general. It was noticed that the international students were very keen in getting to know each other and to deepen their faith by having occasions for ecumenical dialogueÂ Annual trips to Taizé became customary and resulted also in an exchange of the choice of hymns so that gradually a stronger Christian community of international students has emerged, co-operating also in further activities, like bible-studies, intercultural meetings of students in general and of late, after the 11th of September, also resulting in interfaith dialogue groupsÂ
Ecumenical and inter-religious activities are realized by organizing ecumenical discussions, services, interfaith dialogue groups and a national and annual interfaith congress. There are also activities in which students, from whatever religion or philosophy of life, can participate and can get to know each other, for example: outings, barbecues, Taizé-visit, ÂCrossroadsÂ, ÂGlobal Meeting PointÂ, etc.
The KAAD writes the following: ÂAs for the Catholic Church, her universal and ÂtransnationalÂ character as ÂcommunionÂ at the world level is the ÂnaturalÂ theological basis for the solidarity and dialogue in the international sector of the German universities. 1) Welcoming and 2) integrating the foreign students, 3) offering them a forum of intercultural and inter-religious exchange Âalso through 4) homes/hostels run by Catholic dioceses or congregations-, 5) helping them in economically, socially and psychologically critical situations, are at the same time only a starting point for mutual enrichment and also prepare us to experience and learn from their cultural and spiritual differences and profundity. This dimension of the university chaplaincies as intercultural and inter-religious learning and study communities is recognized by the German bishops and expressed in an exemplary way, for example, in a decree of the Archbishop of Cologne (September 1999).Â
The very original and new initiative of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, namely the ÂFondazione Nostra AetateÂ, created in Rome, in May 1990, is also worth mentioning:
That foundation distributes annually fifty scholarships for the benefit of university students of other religions, mostly for Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, India and Central Asia.
The Foundation hopes, by this way, that those students would get either a valuable introduction or deeper knowledge of the Christian religion thanks to the courses they follow in some Pontifical University in Rome.
The Foundation also tries to find suitable accommodations for these students (religious houses, for instance), where they can learn something about Christianity, experienced from the inside, so to say: ÂConoscenza del cristianismo dallÂinternoÂ.
Once a month, one of the officials of the Foundation organizes a meeting where the students have to share about the progress of the work they do. A general discussion is also held about everyoneÂs experiences on Âreligious dialogueÂ they had with other people.
A propos de la dimension oeucuménique et interreligieuse de la Pastorale universitaire, le rapport Belge écrit ce qui suit : « La mobilité actuelle tant au plan du personnel académique que des étudiants universitaires pousse à la plus grande ouverture qui soit entre tous ceux qui font partie intégrante des Universités, partout dans le monde ».
On ne peut donc pas ne pas constater la pluralité extrême dÂopinions philosophiques et religieuses qui existe parmi les étudiants dans toutes les universités, quelles quÂelles soient. Le principe de base à maintenir, ou à acquérir sÂil le faut, cÂest dÂabord dÂessayer de mieux connaître et de mieux comprendre lÂopinion dÂautrui. CÂest ensuite dÂapprofondir sa propre foi et son identité à soi, CÂest enfin dÂentrer en dialogue avec autrui, en osant confronter en toute amitié les opinions les plus diverses. Il faut même parfois aller jusquÂà accepter chez autrui certaines différences dÂopinion avec lesquelles nous ne pouvons être dÂaccord ni approuver sans nous renier nous-même. Mais il est vrai que le problème le plus difficile à gérer cÂest celui de la prolifération de nouvelles églises, quÂon appelle souvent ÂsectesÂ aujourdÂhui. Chacun aime bien, en effet, se retrouver pour prier avec les gens de son propre pays, de son propre clan, parlant la même langue, ayant les mêmes coûtumes, les mêmes croyancesÂ jusquÂaux mêmes chorales , parfois ! LÂunité, dans ces cas, nÂest effectivement pas si facile à maintenir... Elle a son prix, pourtant » !
5) What are the principal motivations that support the pastoral care and the theology of the engagement with foreign students?
This is a very interesting question indeed that forces each one of us to do a kind of spiritual introspection. The different responses are:
- ÂThe need of the international university student for a specific pastoral care different from the normal parish community and specifically geared towards the needs of the person in his/her student-time. It is not only a time for further education, but also for further personal formation including spirituality, ethics, and morality. Next to fulfilling this need, the chaplaincy tries to emphasize the ecumenical and inter-religious aspects, and further educates the student in his/her religious knowledge (bible study), especially to shoulder his/her responsibility in the studentÂs own, situation of church work, country. Through the magazine Âthe global studentÂ we also try to establish contacts between alumni worldwide and with universities.Â (The Netherlands)
- ÂThe commitment to foreign studentsÂ providing a home and spiritual guidance to people from abroad. Also, the wish to be close to the young people as they often go through big intellectual, personal and existential challenges during this period of timeÂ. (Sweden)
- ÂThe responsibility of the local Church to welcome and integrate the Âstranger in our midstÂ according to our available resources. Universities are increasingly multicultural and diverse, the Church and the university chaplaincies have an important role in promoting mutual respect and tolerance.Â (England and Wales)
- ÂConcern about the welfare and the pastoral care of foreign students, inviting them to participate in the ministry with us as far as possible and awareness raising with the general student body, involving them in lobbying, fund-raising and outreach to the developing worldÂ Giving them, through cultural evenings, some insight into the various cultures on the campus.Â (Ireland)
- « La certitude de la presence de Dieu dans les divers lieux et milieux universitaires et dans le dialogue entre la science, la foi et la culture. DÂautre part, il ya la solicitude et la charité envers lÂétranger, et notre désir de partager au maximum leur vie quotidienne, par une presence dans les diverses activités universitaires (cours, culture, sport, repas, fêtes, etc.). Nous avons la certitude que ces partages sont une voie pastorale dÂévangélisation, dÂamour et de respect de ces étudiants étrangers » (Suisse).
- « Notre motivation principale de Pasteur est bien de soutenir ces jeunes dans leur vie chrétienne dans nos pays du Maghreb où, dans le milieu universitaire, ils ont à porter témoignage de leur foi chrétienne. Ils sont les seuls jeunes de nos diocèses et donc apportent aussi leur dynamisme. Ils sont capables de prendre leurs responsabilités de laïcs dans lÂanimation des communautés. Ils sont un lien de plus en plus fort avec les Eglises subsahariennes, dÂoù la présence dans le clergé de prêtres Âfidei donumÂ ou de religieux issus des mêmes pays et les apports ponctuels de théologiens ou biblistes des Eglises dÂAfrique subsaharienne » (Maghreb).
The Belgian report mentions the following: « Les motivations qui nous poussent à nous engager dans ce secteurs sont multiples.
6) As a conclusion of this responses to the synthesis of the questionnaire, let us consider question 3, namely: ÂWhat Church Institution in the different countries, takes the responsibility of the Pastoral and Social care for international students? Indicate the strong and weak points of the choices that had been taken.Â
- At grass-root level, the student Chaplaincies take on their shoulders the broadest responsibilities in this sector of pastoral and social care for international students. Student chaplaincies have even been promoted, in some countries, in accordance with Canon Law, as non territorial, ÂpersonalÂ parishes for all those who are involved in the life of the Academic Institutions. These chaplaincies are often divided in 2 sections: one section more specialized in the Pastoral and Social care of students from abroad, the other section being directed more to the students from within. Father McCoy passed me a very interesting essay signed by Rev. Dr. Peter McGrail and Professor John Sullivan under the title Âdancing on the edgeÂ: a report on catholic chaplaincies in higer eduction.
I just want to quote here one idea about what chaplains sometimes feel about the work situation in their daily life: ÂThe sense of isolation felt by many chaplains is most painfully experienced in their relationship with the institutional church that appoints them. Individual support varies, and can be good, but there are very few systems in place for sustained supervision and support of chaplains and chaplaincy.Â
One good point for the work done by the chaplains for international students, and I quote once more: ÂMost institutions report that the bulk of their Sunday congregation was made up of international studentsÂ.
The fact is, on the one hand, that at the highest level of the Catholic Church, the Holy See, three Dicasteries are involved in the pastoral care for international students. First of all, the ÂPontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant PeopleÂ. And nobody can deny that they are, up to now, the most active in this field. But as the Âtarget groupÂ of our pastoral work is students at Universities and High Schools, it is more than normal that the ÂCongregation for Catholic EducationÂ should also be involved in this field, and also, last but not least, the ÂCongregation for the Evangelization of the PeoplesÂ, specially ÂMissioÂ when those students are religious: brothers and sisters from religious orders or even priests who come from Âmission countriesÂ. Of course, the Holy Father himself, especially Pope John Paul II, has always firmly sustained and protected all those who devote their life working in the field of Pastoral and Social Care for international students.
 The First World Congress for the Pastoral Care for Foreign Students was held in September 1996.
 ÂIt is necessary to switch from dispersed interventions in urgent matters, and set up a true organized system of social and pastoral assistance for the international students.Â
 ÂThe students who come from developing countries and have acquired knowledge and new modern skills in up to date Universities can do a lot to help their countries out of the underdevelopment and their deep miseries by whiles.Â
 ÂWe have to invest in the education of future ÂelitesÂ who should acknowledge the responsibilities they have in returning to their home countries, dedicating themselves to the benefit of their people.Â
 ÂPastoral agents have to be encouraged in pursuing the work of evangelization and human promotion.Â
 Tunisia (4,500 foreign students), Algeria (2,000), Marocco (10,000)
 « Une université dÂEté euro-méditéranéenne à lÂinitiative de nos Eglises ! »
 Isaiah 40:11: ÂHe will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.Â
 One of our participants explained to me that those statistics do not much in his country. The high number of students includes also those of them who were born in Switzerland of parents who didnÂt yet get the Swiss nationality.
 On ne peut pas taire la vigilance extrême quÂil faut avoir actuellement à dépister et à contrer sans hésitation et sans merci des fauteurs de troubles et dÂattentats de toutes sortes qui seraient le fait dÂanciens étudiants étrangers qui ont choisi de rester dans les pays dÂaccueil pour les anéantir subtilement comme le font certaines sectes terroristes de nos jours !
 Bien sûr, il peut y avoir des excuses valablesÂ et aussi un remboursement de la bourse aux fonds de développement donateurs.
 Universities are international and multicultural communities. They have the key role to play in the global challenge of justice and peace. They provide a unique environment for exchange and mutual understanding. World awareness is enhanced among home students by the presence of their international peers.
 The Chaplains are very much involved with overseas students and try to involve them in college life! They try to meet each student group at the start of term and invite them to visit them during their time in College. We have to help them if they need it. Faith issues come mostly to the fore if they have a family crisis or bereavement back home!
 KAAD = 60 scholarships for students from developing countries; JUSTINUS-WORK = 160; AFRO-ASIAN Institute = 250. The KAAD report is absolutely outstanding: ÂIn terms of a general conclusion the German experience favors clearly a particular pastoral approach towards migrants in the education and research field through university chaplaincies, international student hostels and scholarships organizations, which combines material, educational and spiritual assistance, closely linked to development activities and spiritual exchange with partner-Churches mainly in developing countriesÂ.
 Other German organizations that grant scholarships usually outside Germany: Adveniat, Missio, Renovabis, Stipendiumwerk, Lateinamerika-Deutschland + the payments of individual dioceses for foreign priests as well as of religious congregations for their members.
 The spiritual challenges of ecumenism, on the one hand, and that of inter-religious encounters and understanding, on the other hand. The first challenge being to deepen oneÂs own religious identity first and to avoid superficial settlements and naïve relativism in these matters.
 Sweden has a different approach. It says: ÂOften the students re-evaluate their faith during their studies abroad. They are looking for guidance in questions of morals and faith and want to encounter the intellectual challenges they experience in their studies out of their commitment as Catholics. The interest in ecumenical questions is mostly very lowÂ.
 CÂest à dire : de cette sorte de pax qui est en dieu et qui rayonne de tout côté par son esprit !
 The Netherlands has the following remark: ÂThe chaplaincy for international students wants to remain more or less independent from the chaplaincy for the Dutch students, because the mode of work is quite different, both in form and content. We experience some difficulties in the work of integration, because many Dutch student chaplains are not prepared for the reception of international students. The Dutch students do not readily mix with international students, except those who have had the chance to travel abroad.Â
 This work contains 4 Chapters: 1) Chaplaincy and the Changing Profile of UK Students, 2) Relationship with the institution: Operating within an Ambiguous Set of Parameters, 3) Relations with Other Religious Bodies within the institution: Ecumenism and Interfaith Engagement, 4) Supporting and Managing the Work of Chaplains: The Relationship with the Catholic Community.
 See for instance the letter of the Holy Father, John Paul II at the end of the ÂFirst World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Foreign StudentsÂ. See also the letters of Cardinal Schotte (27.09.03) and Cardinal Sepe (06.03.04)
 ÂThe Pastoral Care for foreign students is closely related with the University Pastoral Care in general. In 16 of the 27 German dioceses, one of the Vicars General or an Auxiliary Bishop coordinates this specific workÂ On the explicit request of the Bishops Conference of Germany, the KAAD has become the official ÂClearing-organizationÂ and Âcoordinator of the matterÂ.
 ÂThe Bishop in each diocese appoints chaplains, resources university parishes and chaplaincy centers. At the ecumenical level, the ChurchesÂ Commission for International Students (CCIS) is a national group which works with the churches, the government and the universities to support international students. The chaplaincies in each university, in co-operation with the ÂStudent ServiceÂ and the ÂInternational Student DepartmentÂ at the relevant university, often work togetherÂ.