THE Fifth World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees will take place in Rome beginning tomorrow till November 22, 2003. Delegations from the World Council of Churches along with those from Protestant and Orthodox Churches will also take part. The congress will thus be an ecumenical one.
Organizers of the meeting say that there are more than 175 million migrants in the world. One major reason for migration is economic opportunity. Estimates are that 17 million refugees have fled their homes because of ethnic, religious, or political persecution. The most urgent challenge for church people is the care of these refugees, for the refugees are usually people who are most vulnerable and exploited.
Obviously, given today’s situation, it is important that Christians proclaim the Gospel by putting it in practice. As the Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 25:35-36) reminds believers: “I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; naked and you clothed Me: A Stranger and you welcomed Me; in prison and you came to visit Me.’’ The words of Christ remind believers that their first moral obligation is to be good human beings, because Jesus Himself expects this of everyone.
The conference is significant for the Philippines. Many Filipinos move abroad as migrant workers. Others emigrate and become part of the great Filipino Diaspora. In addition, the Philippines has internal migrant workers and internal refugees who were forced to flee homes during times of violent conflict. In turn, the Philippines also receives migrants and refugees.
Organizers hope that by bringing experts and the heads of organizations serving refugees together, they will generate some fresh approaches and a new synergy among those who respond to this major social problem. It is significant that the Rome conference has the theme To Start Afresh from Christ. After all, Christ uttered the challenge that the Church still faces: “I was a Stranger and you welcomed Me.’’
Issue on 15 Nov, 2003
By Manila Bulletin