Thursday, January 14, 2010

17th January: 96th World Day of Migrants and Refugees


Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees once again gives me the opportunity to express the Church's constant concern for those who, in different ways, experience a life of emigration. This is a phenomenon which, as I wrote in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, upsets us due to the number of people involved and the social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it raises on account of the dramatic challenges it poses to both national and international communities. The migrant is a human person who possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance (cf. n. 62).
This year's theme – “Minor migrants and refugees” – touches an aspect that Christians view with great attention, remembering the warning of Christ who at the Last Judgement will consider as directed to himself everything that has been done or denied “to one of the least of these” (cf. Mt 25:40, 45). And how can one fail to consider migrant and refugee minors as also being among the “least”? As a child, Jesus himself experienced migration for, as the Gospel recounts, in order to flee the threats of Herod, he had to seek refuge in Egypt together with Joseph and Mary (cf. Mt 2:14).
While the Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that the best interests of the minor shall always be safeguarded (cf. Art. 3, 1), recognizing his or her fundamental human rights as equal to the rights of adults, unfortunately this does not always happen in practice.
Although there is increasing public awareness of the need for immediate and incisive action to protect minors, nevertheless, many are left to themselves and, in various ways, face the risk of exploitation. My venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, voiced the dramatic situation in which they live in the Message he addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations on 22 September 1990, on the occasion of the World Summit for Children.
“I am a witness of the heart-breaking plight of millions of children on every continent. They are most vulnerable, because they are least able to make their voice heard” (L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 1 October 1990, p. 13). I warmly hope that proper attention will be given to minor migrants who need a social environment that permits and fosters their physical, cultural, spiritual and moral development. Living in a foreign land without effective points of reference generates countless and sometimes serious hardships and difficulties for them, especially those deprived of the support of their family.

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