Rohingya refugees rest at a temporary shelter in Indonesia Rohingya refugees rest at a temporary shelter in Indonesia  (ANSA)

Pope praises global commitment in message to Refugee Forum

Pope Francis encourages international leaders present at the Second Global Refugee Forum in Geneva to persevere in their efforts to build a better world marked by fraternity.

By Thaddeus Jones

In his message to the Second Global Refugee Forum that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 13-15 December, Pope Francis said this second meeting "shows our clear commitment to resolving the plight of refugees as a shared responsibility" and marks "a sign of hope." Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, delivered the Pope's message to the meeting participants on 13 December.

The Forum is held every four years and is the world’s largest international gathering on refugees. The Forum aims to support the practical implementation of objectives set out in the Global Compact on Refugees, which include easing pressure on host countries, enhancing refugee self-reliance, increasing access to third-country solutions, and improving living conditions in countries of origin. Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan, and Uganda convened this second meeting co-hosted by the Government of Switzerland and UNHCR. 

The Pope said he sees "many positive signs" in our world, with countries and local communities keeping their borders and hearts open to refugees, saving lives at sea, and offering solidarity in reception centers.

He recalled the importance of "cooperation as the key solution to global problems" and the benefits from assisting migrants who "want to change their lives and contribute to the societies to which they move."

Freedom to stay home or migrate

Choosing whether to stay in their home country or migrate to another one should be a recognized freedom, the Pope said, and ideally, "everyone should have the opportunity to live a dignified life in their own country."

Today, almost 114 million people are forcibly displaced often within their own countries due to conflicts, violence, persecution—even religious—and climate change, the Pope lamented, and our responses have yet to adequately address these complex and pressing emergencies. Sadly, he underscored, "we continue to mourn the countless lives lost on land and at sea while seeking protection or fleeing from a hopeless future."

Priority to save lives

The top priority is to protect and save human lives, the Pope writes, and we must look beyond the numbers and statistics and see "that behind these numbers there are human faces, each with their own story and suffering."

He added that in cases of repatriations, that they be safe and voluntary, and not force anyone to return to places where they may face severe human rights violations or even death.

At the same time, places hosting refugees should strive to "welcome, promote, accompany, and integrate those who knock on our doors."

Refugee rights and duties

Apart from meeting immediate needs for food and shelter, efforts should strive to help refugees and migrants participate in and contribute to the societies receiving them, the Pope added, recalling that "refugees are persons with rights and duties, not just objects of assistance." 

Their talents and skills can become a valuable and appreciated resource for host communities, he pointed out, and "only by including refugees as a part of the solution can they flourish as human beings and sow their seeds in the place where they live."

Opting for a culture of fraternity

In conclusion, the Pope said we are at a threshold moment today where we can choose “either the culture of humanity and fraternity or the culture of indifference.” He added that “history is challenging us to make a leap of conscience in order to prevent the shipwreck of civilization.”

He encouraged all the participants at the Global Refugee Forum to seize the opportunity "to reaffirm the principles of fraternity and solidarity" among communities and countries.

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18 December 2023, 15:47