Today, Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees which will be celebrated on January 13, was made public. In it he raised the plight of young migrants who are torn between two cultures in the lands they immigrate to.
The theme of the 94th celebration, “invites us this year to reflect in particular on young migrants” stated the Holy Father. “The vast globalization process underway around the world brings a need for mobility, which also induces many young people to emigrate and live far from their families and their countries. The result is that many times the young people endowed with the best intellectual resources leave their countries of origin, while in the countries that receive the migrants, laws are in force that make their actual insertion difficult.”
"For the young migrants,” he continued, “the problems of the so-called 'difficulty of dual belonging' seem to be felt in a particular way: on the one hand, they feel a strong need not to lose their culture of origin, while on the other, the understandable desire emerges in them to be inserted organically into the society that receives them, but without this implying a complete assimilation and the resulting loss of their ancestral traditions.”
Cardinal Martino, president of the Pontifical Council affirmed this during the presentation saying, “Young migrants often find themselves alone, in a no- man's-land halfway between two cultures.” This causes them “to live in a situation of great uncertainty that prevents them from conceiving a feasible project for their future and increases the factors that lead to marginalization, opening the doors to criminality, prostitution, alcohol, drugs and larceny.”
The cardinal continued, “The crisis of values of our own day leads to the spiritual death of many young immigrants. Most of them are also relatively distant from religious concerns, and often recognize that they have received no ... education in this field.”
The Pope’s message continued, emphasizing the need to focus on the “sector of forced migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking. “[I]t is impossible to remain silent before the distressing images of the great refugee camps present in different parts of the world. ... These children and adolescents have only had as their life experience the permanent, compulsory 'camps' where they are segregated, far from inhabited towns, with no possibility normally to attend school."
How can these young migrants be helped? The Holy Father answered that “it is necessary to aim first of all at support for the family and schools. But how complex the situations are, and how numerous the difficulties these young people encounter in their family and school contexts! In families, the traditional roles that existed in the countries of origin have broken down, and a clash is often seen between parents still tied to their culture and children quickly acculturated in the new social contexts.
"Likewise, the difficulty should not be underestimated which the young people find in getting inserted into the educational course of study in force in the country where they are hosted. Therefore, the scholastic system itself should take their conditions into consideration and provide specific formative paths of integration for the immigrant boys and girls that are suited to their needs. The commitment will also be important to create a climate of mutual respect and dialogue among all the students in the classrooms based on the universal principles and values that are common to all cultures."
The Holy Father also focused on the need for pastoral care for students who are studying abroad noting that they may “often feel alone under the pressure of their studies and sometimes they are also constricted by economic difficulties.
"It is necessary to help them find a way to open up to the dynamism of inter-culturality and be enriched in their contact with other students of different cultures and religions. For young Christians, this study and formation experience can be a useful area for the maturation of their faith, a stimulus to be open to the universalism that is a constitutive element of the Catholic Church.”
"Dear young migrants, prepare yourselves to build together your young peers a more just and fraternal society by fulfilling your duties scrupulously and seriously towards your families and the State.” The Pontiff encouraged migrants to “be respectful of the laws and never let yourselves be carried away by hatred and violence. Try instead to be protagonists as of now of a world where understanding and solidarity, justice and peace will reign."
The Pope concluded his message by reminding the migrants that the Church needs them. “You can play a very providential role in the current context of evangelization. Coming from different cultures, but all united by belonging to the one Church of Christ, you can show that the Gospel is alive and suited to every situation; it is an old and ever new message. It is a word of hope and salvation for the people of all races and cultures, of all ages and eras."