Vatican World Day of Migrants: ‘Jesus Himself’ Is the Stranger

Guatemala City, GUATEMALA: A figure of Jesus which asks for 'justice with the migrants and no more deportations' is pictured in the Constitution Place where members of the Episcopal Conference take part in the Via Crucis of the Migrant in the Historic Centre of Guatemala City, 23 March 2007. The …
ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty

The Vatican announced Sunday the theme for its 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will encourage greater openness to those who live in the “existential peripheries” of the world.

Bearing the title “It Is Not Just about Migrants,” the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday, September 29, 2019.

The Vatican is currently in the midst of a two-year campaign to promote a more welcoming attitude toward migration throughout the world. The campaign will end with next fall’s world day for migrants.

In September, 2017, Pope Francis inaugurated the project, titled “Share the Journey,” a pro-immigration crusade entrusted to the global Catholic charity network Caritas Internationalis.

According to Caritas, the project was launched as a response to Pope Francis’s frequent summons for a “culture of encounter” regarding migrants.

Our world “faces not a migration crisis, but a crisis of global solidarity,” Caritas said on its website. “Be part of a worldwide campaign to reach out to migrants, change perceptions, open hearts and minds, and strengthen the bonds that unite us all.”

The declared objective of the project is to shed light on both the challenges and effects of migration at every stage of the journey to provoke a “shift in thinking” on the issue, while dispelling a number of common “myths about migration,” such as the belief that there are more migrants than ever before, that migrants live off welfare benefits and steal jobs from citizens, that closing borders stems migrant flows, and that “people from poor countries migrate to rich ones.”

According to the Vatican, Pope Francis “wants to highlight that his frequent appeals for migrants, refugees, displaced and trafficked people should be understood as integral to his deep concern for all the inhabitants of today’s existential peripheries.”

“The hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner who knock on our door today are Jesus Himself, asking to be encountered and supported,” the Vatican stated in its press release announcing next September’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

For the next seven months, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Department for Promoting Integral Human Development will embark on a communication campaign, “offering monthly reflections, information, and multimedia materials, taking a variety of approaches in promoting a deeper understanding of the theme chosen by the Holy Father,” the communiqué said.

Last September, the Vatican co-sponsored a conference with the World Council of Churches (WCC) on “migration, xenophobia, and politically motivated populism,” which sought to connect the recent rise of populism with xenophobia and racism.

Some politicians “yield to the temptation to exploit the fears or the objective difficulties of some groups,” Pope Francis said in his closing address at the conference, adding that these politicians “make illusory promises for short-sighted electoral interests.”

Unscrupulous political and economic players sow “feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged different by reason of their ethnic, national or religious affiliation,” the pope said.

“These feelings, too, often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion, which seriously damage the dignity of the people involved and their fundamental rights, including the right to life and to physical and moral integrity,” he said.

“Faced with the spread of new forms of xenophobia and racism, the leaders of all religions also have an important mission: to spread among their faithful the ethical principles and values inscribed by God in the human heart, known as the natural moral law,” the pope said.

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