Major Trends and the Need for International Responsibility Sharing and for New Forms of Governance in Migration, Harare, 26.02.18

“Major Trends and the Need for International Responsibility Sharing and for New Forms of Governance in Migration”

Conference on International Migration and its Impact on Southern Africa
Catholic University of Zimbabwe (26-28 February 2018).

Cardinal P. Kodwo A. Turkson




Your Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio, My Lord Archbishops and Bishops of the Zimbabwean Episcopal Conference, Rev. Fathers, Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Consecrated Religious Life, Distinguished Invited Guests, I wish to thank Prof. Zinyemba, Rector of the Catholic University of Zimbabwe, and his staff heartily for their kind invitation to me to speak at this  very timely and pertinent conference on migration; and on behalf of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, I wish it great success.

In a predominantly Catholic environment like this, it is easy to refer to the great concern of the Church and, especially, Pope Francis about the issue of migration, refugees and asylum seeking and human trafficking. Pope Francis has not only referred to the latter (human trafficking) as a crime against humanity, he never misses an opportunity to urge, both the hierarchy and faithful of the Catholic Church, as well as all people of good will, to promote and actively engage in activities to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of human trafficking in our local communities, national policies, and global governance.

The invitation letter indicated that the "focus of this conference seeks to highlight and analyse the ambivalence of the migration and development nexus, and the need for ethical reflection on the same, aimed at influencing policy making and considering the efficacy of introducing academic studies in migration at the Catholic University of Zimbabwe". I shall try modestly to meet the request by resorting to the well-known presentational method: see, judge and act, to articulate and to initiate a discussion on migration.  We shall endeavour to catch a glimpse at the current situation of migration and refugees (SEE). Then we shall try to gain an understanding of the situation with the help of Scriptures, the teachings of the Popes and their underlying ethical considerations (JUDGE). Finally, we shall consider how Pope Francis' call for the development of a culture of encounter helps   inspire new positive attitudes towards the migrant and refugee (ACT).


A. SEEING: Trends in International Migration

According to the World Migration Report 2018, 744 million people have migrated within their country of birth.[1] While a Report[2] issued by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on the occasion of World Migrants Day (18 December) 2017, there are now an estimated 258 million people living in a country other than their country of birth — an increase of 49% since 2000. Among international migrants, 26 million are refugees or asylum seekers.  Between 2000 and 2017, Africa experienced a 68% increase in the number of Africans migrating from one African country to another.

For some people, this triggers fear and concern.  But fear normally is the  reaction to a situation of threat: threat to identity and security. There are also concerns and questions related to the political, economic, social, developmental, humanitarian and human rights implications of migration. Yet according to another UN Report[3], we should not see only the negative side of migration.  In fact, this latter UN Report states that the development of countries is partly due to migration and immigration. While, however, migration benefits can take time to materialize, many of the associated costs arise upfront. And there are inevitably individuals —indeed sometimes large social groups— for whom it is harmful.  In fact, the structural factors driving migration —demographic imbalances, economic inequalities, conflict, disasters and the impacts of climate change —are all likely to persist, if not intensify.  This means that during the next few years, we will listen to more poor or forced migrants crying out for help.


B. JUDGING: A Discerning Vision about Migration in the Light of Scriptures and Church's Social Tradition

How to read and evaluate these trends, and how to respond to the cry of the poor: to the cry of the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers?  This is the question I would like to discuss with you.  In so doing, I would like, as Mr. Johann Ketelers, the former Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission, once advised,[4] to go beyond statistics, delving deep into the meaning of our human existence, addressing fully the human dimensions of migration and its implications to society and political commitments.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council have stated: "the human person deserves to be preserved; (but) human society deserves to be renewed" (GS #2). So,  how do we preserve the human person in a society that is constantly changing and deserves to be renewed! In other words, how do we preserve the human dignity of every person, especially of migrants, in a society that is constantly evolving and changing?  And how do we help societies to change for the better, i.e. to develop in a way that respects the dignity of all persons, even when they are migrants?

By way of confronting this task, the Fathers of Vatican Council II recommended "bringing to mankind light kindled from the Gospel, and putting at its disposal those saving resources which the Church herself, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, receives from her Founder." (GS §3) As strategy, they recommended "engaging with the human family in conversation about these various problems", as a sign of solidarity with and a show of respect and love for the human family. A vision and a strategy then, are what the Fathers of Vatican Council II offer for the Church's ongoing evangelizing mission to the human family and her encounter with problems of the human family, such as migration, refugees and human trafficking.

For vision, an understanding of the phenomenon and the current situation, I shall present indications from Scriptures and the Tradition/Life of the Church which can help educate us and inspire our own responses(judging); and for strategy, I shall revert to Pope Francis' teaching about encounter, rooted in the fraternity of the human family, and as an expression of its solidarity which generates a culture of encounter, as opposed to a culture of fear and rejection (acting).



a)      Scriptures

From the Judeo-Christian tradition, we, as people of God, are a people on the move, who have to interact with different cultures while "pilgrimaging" towards our destiny. Because of this interaction, the people of God is called upon to be open to other people, and to offer hospitality and care to strangers. In Abraham and the journey of the Patriarchs, and the Exodus Hebrews who did include people of mixed ancestry (Lev. 24:10) God's people are presented as migrant and open to others. The genealogy of Jesus included non-Hebrews (Ruth and Rahab; cf. too, Ezek 16:3, 45); and Ruth rising to become the great grand-mother of David shows how the non-Israelite could integrate within the Israelite community. Thus, the Pentateuch and the prophetic tradition offer a vision of God's people open to hospitality and care for the stranger in their midst.[5] God commands His people to treat foreigners well: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Dt10:17-18).

In the New Testament, we draw a powerful lesson both from a consideration of the incarnation of Jesus in terms of migration of God towards human history, and the dominant migrant and exilic motif in the earthly ministry of Christ. Christ identifies himself with this essentially migrant character and understanding of humanity. Thus in migrants and refugees, the Church contemplates the presence of Christ: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

b)  Church’s Tradition

In the early Church, there were movements and displacements – particularly, as missionary and persecuted Christians – that influenced what the Church taught through Patristic writers. The Letter to Diognetus, for example, speaking about Christians, says: “Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers” [Chapter V]).  So, a predominant imagery for presenting the Church of the early Christians was that of "resident aliens" (paroikoi) 1Pt 1:1ff. 

One may also ask oneself, whether the early designation of the Christian faith as "the way"(Acts 9:2) was not suggestive of the uprooted (paroikoi, 1Pt 1:1ff.) life and character that becoming a Christian made one live.

In the Magisterium (official teaching) of the Church, Popes have spoken consistently on the need to care for migrants and refugees.

·         Beginning with Rerum Novarum(1891), often considered the first great social Encyclical, Pope Leo XIII says this: “No one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life” (#47).

·         Pope Pius XII issued the Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia Nazarethana[6] in 1952. After reviewing the Scriptural and Doctrinal  Teaching on “welcoming the stranger”, and the practical and pastoral responses of the Church to the needs of refugees and other migrants, during various crisis moments in history, Pope Pius XII renewed the Church's commitment to help and protect the migrants, saying: “Many organizations—including a number of official agencies, both national and international—have vied and still vie with one another in assisting migrants, relieving moral as well as material want. Nevertheless, because of our supreme and universal ministry, we must continue to look with the greatest love after our sons who are caught in the trials and misfortunes of exile, and to strive with all our resources to help them. While we do not neglect whatever material assistance is permitted, we seek primarily to aid them with spiritual consolation.”

·         Pope Paul VI:

In his ground-breaking encyclical, Populorum Progressio, Blessed Pope Paul VI anticipated by 50 years the current discussion on migration and development when he stated: “Emigrant workers should also be given a warm welcome. Their living conditions are often inhuman, and they must scrimp on their earnings in order to send help to their families who have remained behind in their native land in poverty.”[7] He also identified the comprehensive nature of human development, which should above all characterize the response of the Church to the situations of people on the move. He said: “The development we speak of here cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man." And, as Fr. Lebret, a consultor at the Vatican II rightly observed: “We cannot allow economics to be separated from human realities, nor development from the civilization in which it takes place. What counts for us is man—each individual man, each human group, and humanity as a whole.”[8]

·         St. John Paul II:

In an address to the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and People on the Move (1985), St. Pope John Paul II affirmed a broad range of rights among refugees and migrants, saying: “The Church, Mother and Teacher, should remind all [the migrants] that it is their own right to decide whether they wish to stay in their new conditions of life, always being in solidarity with the others, and to avoid being reduced to the simple role of instruments of production, and to participate in social life of the country, and even in certain instances in the political life. There is much to do to help migrants benefit from a status that gives them the right to live their originality in national solidarity. This is more complex than simply being measured by “naturalization”.[9]

·         Similarly, in his Message for the 90th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2004), "Migration with a view to Peace", St. Pope John Paul II wrote, "the world of immigrants can make a valid contribution to the consolidation of peace. Migration can, in fact, facilitate encounter and understanding between civilizations as well as between individuals and communities. .... This happens when immigrants are treated with proper respect for the dignity of each one, when every possible means is used to promote the culture of acceptance and the culture of peace that smoothens out differences and seeks dialogue, but without letting forms of indifferentism creep in when values are at stake. This openness becomes a gift and a condition of peace... Values are rediscovered that are common to every culture, which unite rather than divide and have put down roots in the same human soil. If the "dream" of a peaceful world is shared b y all, if the contribution of refugees and migrants is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more of a universal family, and out earth a true "common home" (§5-6).

·         Pope Benedict XVI:

Pope Benedict XVI also focused on the nexus between migration and development, when he declared: “Authentic development always features solidarity. In fact, in an increasingly globalised society, the common good and the effort to obtain it …  cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations. Indeed, the current process of globalization can represent a propitious opportunity for promoting integral development but only if cultural differences are accepted as an opportunity for meeting and dialogue, and if the unequal distribution of the world's resources leads to a new awareness of the necessary solidarity which must unite the human family … It follows that the great social changes under way demand adequate responses since it is clear that there can be no effective development without promoting encounter among peoples, dialogue among cultures and respect for legitimate differences. In this perspective, why not consider the contemporary phenomenon of migration as a favourable condition for understanding among peoples, for building peace and for a development that concerns every nation.”[10]

·         Pope Francis:

Perhaps more than any of his predecessors, Pope Francis has made his own the plight of migrants and refugees. In August 2016, he established a new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and within it, a particular Migrants & Refugees Section – under his direct jurisdiction and guidance – to provide leadership and guidance in the Church on how to deal with the phenomenon of migration, refugees and human trafficking.  But it is especially in his prophetic words and deeds that we are summoned to a prophetic vision of “the stranger in our midst”:

-          He has personally visited shorelines where migrants arrive and in-country holding facilities;

-          He has washed the feet of refugees, visited migrants and refugees in prisons and detention centers;

-          He has welcomed migrant and refugee families into his own home at the Vatican, providing them with housing... (showers & barbers, etc.).

This is the “solidarity” Pope Francis teaches: gestures of proximity in order to listen to, accompany and to protect and uphold the dignity of migrants. If “Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs”,[11] it is itself the persevering commitment to the wellbeing of the other; and the history of the Church abounds with such gestures.

In early July 2013, Pope Francis offered an active witness of how to put the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan into practice - by travelling to Lampedusa, an island off the coast of Southern Italy and barely 75 miles from Tunisia, where more than 20,000 African immigrants have lost their lives while trying to escape abject poverty, cruel wars and ethnic violence, in boats that were not at all seaworthy. During this visit, Pope Francis refused to be accompanied by large numbers of governmental officials or Church hierarchy.  He went as a simple pastor, carrying a cross fashioned out of the wreckage of the boats. He went to pray for the dead, but also to ask forgiveness for the failure of the global human family to respond to the pain and sufferings of their most vulnerable sisters and brothers, and to decry a culture of indifference that was fast eroding a brotherly sense of concern and responsibility in our societies.

During this 8 July visit to Lampedusa, Pope Francis asked the two questions which, in the Book of Genesis, marked the disruption of relationship between man and his God, and between man and his brother.  The questions, derived from Genesis, that the Pope asked were: “Adam, where are you?", and "Cain, where is your brother?" And the two questions introduced the Pope's admonition about how indifference was increasingly becoming a global attitude, replacing a healthy sense of fraternal solidarity and responsibility among men. As he went on to say: "The globalization of indifference makes us all ‘unnamed,’ leaders without names and without faces”, and migrants and needy people reduced to statistical figures". "In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!” [12]

Accordingly, in the Encyclical Letter, Laudato si (2015), the Holy Father connects this indifference to a deep failure in civil society – “the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded” (§25). And, for Pope Francis, civil society is the context in which compassion must be generated and kept alive.

·         From the various statements and teachings of Popes on migration and  refugees, the Social Teaching of the Church distill an underlying teaching on the dignity of the human person, based on its theological understanding of the human person (theological anthropology).

 For, created in the image and likeness of God, and thus, with inalienable dignity, all persons are created to exist in relationship with their brothers and sisters; and relationships, like coexistence, are the contexts for our existence as persons.

The fundamental requirements of human coexistence are respect for the rights that flow from the dignity of all persons as creatures of the Divine Creator, and their vocation to live in relationship for their own wellbeing and for the common good. Such social ordering (Politics) is rooted in two basic inclinations: in our naturally good desire to relate and to associate with others, and in our God-given calling to participate in creating and ordering the world around us for the good of all. So, relationships, coexistence and their geographical settings, as citizens, migrants, refugees, diaspora etc. begin with the gift of creation. By nature and in goodness persons are made social and citizens of the earth. By nature, we have a calling to pursue our common good and the wellbeing of all in the network of relations, the weaving of which is done with and among citizens, but also with new comers.... migrants and refugees, for whom their new homes become the wombs for new ties, relations and references for solidarity and responsibility.

It is in this sense that Pope Francis, in his message for the 104th World Day of Migration and Refugees (January 2018), described the Church in terms of such a womb. He wrote: "The Lord entrusts to the Church's motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity", he added "must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience -- from departure, through journey to arrival and return".


C.  ACTING: Common Strategy

By contrast to the "motherly love of the Church" to which Pope Francis entrust migrants and refugees, what the very many forced to flee and leave home meet is:

      Fear, the common reaction of life under threat and insecurity.

      Xenophobia, the fear and, sometimes, even a dread of the stranger, because they are new, different and strange.

      Nationalistic Populism: as an ideological defense against a perceived threat, heightened in places by the Islamic identity of migrants, pre- and un-critically judged and identified with Islamist terrorists.


It is clear then that the present situation of migrants is serious and calls for a multi-sector action: Governmental and Non-Governmental, pastoral and political:

1.      With regard to the former (Governmental and Non-Governmental action),

§  we need to recognize, in primis, the work of the UNHCR and the International Catholic Migrants Commission, based in Geneva;

§  we can easily recall the initiatives and measures of the European Union to legislate intake of migrants and refugees by the member states, the payment of monies to border states (eg. Turkey, Morocco and, lately, Libya) to hold back migrants and to prevent them from entering Europe. Regrettably, the action of the African Union has not been too visible.

§  we can take note of how Google in certain cases provides mobile phones to migrants to enable them stay connected with their homes and families.

§  we take note of the efforts of the San Egidio Community to negotiate humanitarian corridors for the settlement of migrants and refugees in Europe. They have been successful with these negotiated corridors in Italy, and negotiating with the Governments of France and Spain.

§   we recognize also the work of Caritas Internationalis and local Diocesan Caritas groups.


2.      And with regard to Church and State cooperation, (Pastoral and Political action), may recall, as wise guidance, the type of joint action which Pope Benedict XVI spoke about when he presented the work of the 2̊ African synod to the Roman Curia in his Christmas greeting (2009). He said, “The task of Bishops is to transform theology into pastoral care, namely into a very concrete pastoral ministry in which the great perspectives found in sacred Scripture and Tradition find application in the activity of Bishops and priests in specific times and places.”[13] In doing this, however, he continued, "it is very important that one does not confuse 'pastorals' with 'politics', although both are called to respond to the situation."

 Accordingly, one may recall:

§  Pope Francis' proposal of “Four Milestones for Action” as framework for pastoral care of migrants and refugees. These are "to welcome, to protect, to serve their development (promote) and to integrate" them in society:     

o   “Welcoming” calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights. Scripture reminds us: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2). But, most importantly, in welcoming a migrant or refugees, one is invited to recognize in him/her a person with dignity!

o   “Protecting” then, has to do with our duty to recognize and defend the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security, and to prevent their being exploited. I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement. God does not discriminate: “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widows.” (Psalm 146:9)

o   “Promoting” entails facilitating and supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees. Among many possible means of doing so, I would stress the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people. This will enable them not only to cultivate and realize their potential, but also better equip them to encounter others and to foster a spirit of dialogue rather than rejection or confrontation. The Bible teaches that God “loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

o   “Integrating”, lastly, means allowing refugees and migrants to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them, as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community. Saint Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people.” (Ephesians 2:19).

§  Pope Francis' "4 Milestones for Action" are the core of an initiative of the Section of Migrants and Refugees of the Holy See Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development  to guide the negotiations, called, Global Compacts on Migration and refugees, currently being conducted by world leaders at the United Nations. With this initiative, the Church exhorts all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration, to do so with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.

Finally, the never-ending engagement of the former dicasteries of the Roman Curia, Cor unum and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, now merged under the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, has focused on Haiti, Syria, Ukraine and, now, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.   




By way of concluding on a very positive note, I wish to observe how the phenomenon of migration and refugees does help build human bridges between nations and peoples.

Curiously, migration, refugees and the consequent creation of diaspora populations fashion human bridges between countries of origin and countries of their stay, between the people of origin and the people of their new homes for mutual development. Soon, alumni associations are created, twin-cities or sister cities are formed which help replace a narrow national protectionist worldview with a world vision of the world as an "oicumene", a global village and an inclusive development. Thus, the vocation of the human family to pursue its wellbeing in a network of relations prescribes cooperation and a culture of encounter. Seen as a search for safety, peace and conditions where life and human dignity flourish, migration becomes an opportunity for the birth of those personal encounters which promote integral human development.[14] We are, after all, one human family, a common family, with a common origin and a common destiny (cf. Laudato Sì,  202). We are called, therefore, to a universal solidarity to share our responsibility to help each other in our common present; and in this common present, God is the true host. All of us are really guests and migrants on his earth!


Thank you for your kind attention!


[1] World Migration Report 2018, pg.13

[2] UNDESA, International Migration Report, 18 December 2017, New York,

[3]Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Migration” (Sutherland Report) - 3 February 2017 , UN General Assembly, A/71/728 

[4]Mr Ketelers is supposed to have advised that the Church must lead the world and policy-makers in viewing migrants and refugees beyond statistics and categorization towards a recovery of the full human dimension of their condition, ie. the causes of migration, especially of forced migration, its consequences, the wounds it inflicts and the social cost on families and the countries of origin and destination. For, it is not always the case that the departure of the migrant or forced migrant from a miserable condition changes into a favourable condition automatically with his/her departure from country of origin and arrival at their destination. It may well happen that the initial causes of migration are replaced by other vulnerabilities, such as lack of security, threats, exploitation and conflicts.

[5] Cf. the current debate in Israel about the government's plan  to expel migrants and refugees and a resistance by groups who cite the biblical mandate to be hospitable to migrants and refugees.

[6] Pope Pius XII, Exsul Familia Nazarethana, 1952,

[7] Blessed Paul VI, Populorum Progressio: On the Development of Peoples (March 26, 1967), no. 69,

[8]Ibid.,  no.14.

[9] St. John Paul II, Address to the World Congress on the Pastora l Care of Migrants (October 17, 1985),


[11] Address to Participants in the International Forum on Migration and Peace, 21 February 2017.


[13]Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Members of the Roman Curia......., 21 Dec. 2009.

[14]As Martina Liebsch of Caritas Internationalis is known to have said, " Encounter means meeting migrants, welcoming them, recognizing their dignity and rights, and sharing their dreams; and the point of encounter is our common humanity and our common aspiration after fullness of life".


21 giugno 2018