ROME — Pope Francis praised Thailand’s multiculturalism and diversity as well as their openness to immigrants Thursday on the first day of his six-day Asia tour.
“As a multi-ethnic and diverse nation, Thailand has long known the importance of building harmony and peaceful coexistence between its numerous ethnic groups, while showing respect and appreciation for different cultures, religious groups, thoughts and ideas,” the pope told politicians and members of the diplomatic corps in an address in Bangkok Thursday.
The pontiff said that the modern age tends to focus too much on the economic dimension of globalization, missing the more important aspect of cultural globalization.
The experience “of a unity that respects and makes room for diversity serves as an inspiration and incentive for all those concerned about the kind of world we wish to leave to our children,” he said.
Francis expressed his happiness at being able to meet with the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch “as a sign of the importance and urgency of promoting friendship and interreligious dialogue, also in the service of social harmony and the building of just, responsive and inclusive societies.”
The pope also took advantage of this address to touch on a favorite topic of his: immigration, calling it one of the chief moral issues of the day.
“I would like to dwell briefly on the movements of migration that are one of the defining signs of our time,” he said. “Not so much for the movements in themselves, as for the conditions in which they take place, a phenomenon that represents one of the principal moral issues facing our generation.”
“The global crisis of migration cannot be ignored,” he continued. “Thailand itself, known for the welcome it has given to migrants and refugees, has experienced this crisis as a result of the tragic flight of refugees from nearby countries.”
While urging the “international community” to work to resolve the issues leading to this exodus, but reminded his hearers that the endgame he seeks is the promotion of “safe, orderly and regulated migration.”
“May every nation devise effective means for protecting the dignity and rights of migrants and refugees, who face dangers, uncertainty and exploitation in their quest for freedom and a decent life for their families,” he said. “It is not just about migrants; it is also about the face we want to give to our societies.”
On other occasions, the pope has made it clear that he sees migration not as a simple phenomenon to be dealt with or as a necessary evil, but rather as a positive trend to be encouraged and promoted, since it facilitates the mixing of ethnicities and races.
“There are those who want to stop this very important process of mingling cultures, which gives life to people,” Francis told members of his Jesuit order in Mozambique last September. “Mixing makes you grow, it gives you new life. It develops racial mixing, change and gives originality.”
“The mixing of identities is what we have experienced, for example, in Latin America. There we have everything: Spanish and Indian, the missionary and the conqueror, the Spanish lineage, people’s mixed heritage,” he said.
“Building walls means condemning yourself to death,” he said. “We can’t live asphyxiated by a culture as clean and pure as an operating theater, aseptic and not microbial.”