Migrants are real people, not statistics – Pope Francis

FILE PHOTO: Refugees and migrants arrive on a passenger ferry from the island of Samos, at the port of Elefsina near Athens Greece, October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo

Pope Francis said that migrants and displaced persons are real people, not statistics and consequently we have to meet them and know their stories to understand them.

In the message released for the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis compared migrants to Jesus Christ who with his family was forced to flee for his life. He encouraged all to welcome, protect, promote and integrate internally displaced persons.

In his message, the Pope noted that the coronavirus pandemic exacerbates their plight. The Pope also used this message “to embrace all those who are experiencing situations of precariousness, abandonment, marginalization and rejection as a result of COVID-19.”

Jesus was a refugee

Pope Francis used the image of Jesus and his family as refugees, an image used years ago by Pope Pius XII. Unfortunately, noted Francis, today millions of families are identifying themselves with this sad, reality “which is marked by fear, uncertainty and unease” and in search of security and dignified life, a search in which Jesus is present.

“In the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, strangers and prisoners, we are called to see the face of Christ who pleads with us to help. If we can recognize him in those faces, we will be the ones to thank him for having been able to meet, love and serve him in them. Displaced people offer us this opportunity to meet the Lord.”

Fears and prejudices

The Pope acknowledges that fears and prejudices keep us distant from others and often prevent us from ‘becoming neighbours’ to them and serving them with love. He advises that we draw close to others which often means being willing to take risks, “as so many doctors and nurses have taught us in recent months.”

Francis pointed towards the contradiction that in today’s world, messages multiply but the practice of listening is being lost. He emphasised the need to listen to the plea of the vulnerable, the displaced and our seriously ill planet as listening gives us an opportunity to be reconciled with our neighbour, with all those who have been “discarded”, with ourselves and with God.

Share in order to grow

There is also the need, said the Pope that we learn to share in order to grow together as the pandemic has reminded us how we are all in the same boat and that no one can be saved alone. This sharing for Francis leads to involvement which promotes those whom we assist and make them agents in their own redemption while we must find “the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity”.

The Pope reminded readers that this is not a time for self-centredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all, without distinguishing between persons.

“To preserve our common home and make it conform more and more to God’s original plan, we must commit ourselves to ensure international cooperation, global solidarity and local commitment, leaving no one excluded.”

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated in September. It is customary, though, that the messages for this and other ‘World Days’ are released months in advance.

If you want to be the first to receive the latest news on the coronavirus in Malta, download the Newsbook APP here.