In a letter for the 90th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated in 2004, Pope John Paul says that immigrants and refugees have rights, including the basic right to migrate.
The Pope writes in the message that “unfortunately we are used to witnessing the hopeless journey of immigrants, the desperate escape of refugees, their arrival by any means in the richest countries, seeking to satisfy their personal and family needs.” “Therefore,” he continues, “the question is: How can we talk about peace when situations of tension are reported in so many regions of the world? And how can the phenomenon of migration contribute to building up peace among men?”
After emphasizing that peace “is not only the absence of conflicts,” the Holy Father encourages “gestures and concrete efforts of forgiveness and reconciliation, overcoming differences and division. There can be no peace without justice and respect for human rights.”
“Creating specific peaceful conditions for migrants and refugees means working seriously to safeguard above all the right not to emigrate, that is to live in peace and dignity in one's own country.”
John Paul II recalls that “the right to emigrate also exists.” “It is up to governments to regulate the flow of migrants with full respect for the dignity of people and the needs of their families, keeping in mind the needs of the societies that accept these migrants.”
“May no one be insensitive to the conditions in which so many migrants live!” exclaims the Holy Father.
After underscoring that we must “recognize the great effort made by so many public and private organizations to alleviate the troubling situations in many regions of the world,” he writes: “We must never cease to denounce the traffic of those who, without scruples, abandon people at sea, in precarious boats, people who are desperately seeking a more certain future.”
The Pope indicates that despite these problems, migrants can “offer a valid contribution in order to establish peace. Migrations can facilitate exchange and understanding among cultures, as well as among people and communities.”
“If the gradual integration of all immigrants is promoted, there is less of a risk that immigrants form ghettos where they are isolated from the social context, which sometimes results in the desire to gradually take over the territory.”
John Paul II concludes the message by affirming that “if the 'dream' of a peaceful world is shared by many, if the contribution of migrants and refugees is valued, humanity will be able to become a family and our land will be truly a ‘common house’.”
The World Day of Migrants will be celebrated in each local church on a date to be established by the bishops’ conferences. This year's theme is: “Migration in the perspective of peace.”