Concern Raised for Migrants Stuck Between Cultures

Pontifical Council President Presents Pope's Message

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Officials of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers are calling for specific pastoral action to support young immigrants and refugees, often stuck between two cultures.



Today in the Vatican press office, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican dicastery, presented Benedict XVI's Message for the 94th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The World Day will be held Jan. 13 on the theme of "Young Migrants."

Cardinal Martino affirmed that "the migration of young people is undergoing considerable growth. The young are forced to emigrate because of poverty and want, environmental decay, local and international conflicts, political and religious persecution, the demand for labor in industrialized countries, family reunion, etc."

"Young migrants," the cardinal said, "often find themselves alone, in a no man's land, halfway between two cultures." He added that 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."

Spiritual death

"The crisis of values of our own day," the president of the pontifical council continued, "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."

"Specific pastoral action in support of young immigrants must be undertaken while bearing in mind the existential situation of the individual [...] the language, culture, religion, origin and personal history of each young immigrant," he added.

Another official on hand, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the pontifical council, focused on aspects concerning the right to asylum and the situation of refugees. After recalling the fact that in some states, unaccompanied minors are placed in detention, he turned to consider living conditions in refugee camps.

"Transitional camps," he said, "must go back to the role for which they were intended: places in which to reside temporarily. [...] Currently, however, it has become a general practice, especially in countries of the South, to force people to live in overcrowded camps, very often in unspeakable conditions.

"Normally they are not even allowed to work, while their freedom of movement is limited, and thus they become totally dependent on the internal distribution of food within the camps. Moreover, they are often reduced to a life with a minimum of necessary goods and scant dignity. [...] Hence there is little future for people who live in these places, which are often located in remote areas."

Women religious

The archbishop praised the work of female religious who, "assisted by Catholic nongovernmental organizations and by U.N. organizations, care for and accompany young people, especially girls who have suffered violence, rape or threats. There also exist centers for underage mothers, offering them a second chance to complete their interrupted education or to learn a trade."

In his remarks, Monsignor Novatus Rugambwa, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, considered the position of students who emigrate, highlighting how the Pope, in his message, presents them "as a gift for man and for the Church. They bring with them the great resources of their youth, and must be open and receptive to new ideas and experiences while, at the same time, capable of remaining anchored in the truth."

"As the Holy Father says," Monsignor Rugambwa continued, "these young people must not only increase their openness to the dynamism of inculturation, but also seek opportunities for dialogue between cultures and religions, [...] thus they will experience the universality of the Church."