Caritas Internationalis: Closing of the Campaign “Share the Journey”

Press Conference in the Vatican

Share the Journey - Copyright: Vatican Media
Share the Journey - Copyright: Vatican Media

Held at 10:30 am this morning, in the Holy See Press Office’s John Paul II Room, was the press conference on the closing of Caritas Internationalis’ Campaign “Share the Journey,” whose theme was “Caritas Internationalis Journeying with Migrants and Refugees. Looking at the Future after Four Years of Share the Journey Campaign.”

Intervening in the meeting were Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of Caritas Internationalis; Monsignor Bruno-Marie Duffé, Secretary of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development; Aloysius John, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis; and Sister Maria de Lourdes Lodi Rissini, National Coordinator of Caritas South Africa in remote connection.

Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle

In his address, Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle recalled how four years ago, in 2017, “we started the campaign with the ambition to create islands of hope where fear couldn’t enter. We set some challenges to ourselves: Not to be content to see migrants but to look at them with compassion; not simply to hear their voice, but to listen to their cries and concerns; not to limit ourselves to pass by them but to stop, as the Good Samaritan, and live a moment of communion with them.”

Years later, “I see that the “Share the Journey” Campaign has helped us to approach migrants, putting ourselves at their level of poverty and indignity, to lift them up with the conviction that they are not numbers, but have a name, are a person, and see Christ in them as in the time of the exodus from Egypt,” he said.

Today, all the different initiatives carried out “have led us to understand who the migrant are, for me, for us, and for our modern humanity. To understand their sufferings.” This campaign “has helped us to spread a new culture at the global level, a living culture of encounter, a new vision of hospitality of the human person in the migrant,” he added.

The Prefect recalled his trip to Lebanon in 2016, “when I met with refugees of Syria in the valley of Beqaa. Those of us who were with these people realized that it was not about simple refugees, but of human beings.” He also alluded to the Cox’s Bazaar Rohingya camps in 2019. “I remember I had a mixture of feelings. Part of me rejoiced to see that attention was being paid to them, especially the dignity they deserved. However, at the same time, another part of me continued to be sad, because I wondered if that was a permanent or temporal state of life for them. I can’t imagine how parents would respond if their children asked them about their future. If I had a child there, I wouldn’t know what to answer.”

The Prelate revealed that “these refugees remind me of my ‘migratory origin.” I can see my Chinese grandfather in their faces, who left his homeland, his culture and his social security in search of means to survive.”

“Share the Journey” has implied “a great time of solidarity, of encounter and, above all, a means to express the Church’s love for the displaced. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or those of any other religion, were received as human persons, with the determination to respect their dignity and their humanity.” The Cardinal also stressed that the Holy Father “has been an inspiration for our campaign, and he has accompanied us in every important step of this journey. He has inspired, motivated and encouraged us to receive, defend and accompany the migrants.”

Aloysius John

For his part, Aloysius John pointed out that, during the four years of the campaign, Caritas Internationalis did not cease to address different challenges to manifest its determination not only to welcome and offer hospitality to migrants, but also to motivate and mobilize citizens to undertake different actions of solidarity, so that they could also live this moral obligation.

“Different activities were held” in different countries, “to sensitize the public on the difficult and dangerous journey undertaken by migrants, leaving their dear ones behind and launching themselves into the unknown on journeys that are often risky, and in which the majority of them suffer anguish and difficulties. In fact, hundreds of them have died in the course of this dangerous journey.”

The objective of the “Share the Journey” campaign was “to change hearts and sow seeds of sensitization and openness to the other.” And, in the indicated period, “we have been witnesses of many persons reaching out to migrants, opening their arms and hearts to them. And who knows how many other similar cases of “conversion” took place throughout the world thanks to our global campaign? This should encourage us to continue on this path, putting into practice in our daily life the culture of encounter, to which Pope Francis calls us constantly,” said the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis.

In regard to the present situation of the pandemic, John spoke about Lebanon’s Migrants Center, which gave its support to migrants locked in the country, without being able to return to their countries of origin due to the travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and who are still facing the effects of the chemical explosion, of which their employers were also victims. He also revealed how Caritas Jordan “continued helping Syrian migrants and refugees with food and medical aid,” and Caritas Bangladesh, “helped thousands of Rohingya refugees seeking security in Bangladesh.”

The end of the “Share the Journey” campaign “is an opportunity for the Confederation to express its conviction that Caritas will continue to welcome and walk with migrants. As the Holy Father says in the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, ‘Let us dream as one humanity, as wayfarers of the same human flesh, as children of the same land that shelters all, each one with the richness of his faith or of his convictions, each one with his own voice, all brothers’ (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 8).’” And Caritas “will continue this journey with migrants with the same spirit,” he added.

John went on to say that “in a time in which the building of walls and discriminatory policies are used to dissuade or hinder the entry of migrants, in a time in which the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the necessity of solidarity, and in line with the Holy Father’s teachings, the organizations that are members of Caritas will work to transform the borders into privileged places of encounter, where the miracle can be wrought of an “us” that is ever wider.” Caritas “will build bridges of love and care to facilitate the integration of immigrants and to guarantee their wellbeing and dignity. Where there is indifference and intolerance towards migrants, Caritas will be by their side to express the love and concern of Mother Church,” he stressed.

Finally, the President invited all to visit Caritas Internationalis’ Website and to join the initiative by lighting a virtual candle of hope” and sharing “a message in solidarity with the millions of displaced worldwide forced to leave their homes. On June 20, 2021, following the closing of “Share the Journey,” we “will collect all the messages received up to then to create a little book that will be given to the Holy Father.”

Monsignor Bruno-Marie Duffé

The Secretary of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development pointed out that migrants “in the first place are not migrants but persons, with a history, a memory, a land and an inalienable dignity.”

Each one of them has a journey, a profound pain that pursues them, and each one has a hope: to be considered as a person, to be called by his name, to be welcomed and recognized.” Therefore, “we must speak of persons in migration who ask us to share their journey, and the land, and world we have in common with them.”

The Prelate referred also to the four verbs that Pope Francis “has used on more than one occasion in regard to our solidarity with people in movement, which commits us to undertake with them a moral, social, political, juridical and spiritual journey”: “to welcome means to open the door and our points of view; to protect, which means to look after; to promote, which means to encourage.” These four verbs “describe the four concentric circles of the urgency: to open the door and to share the bread’ to take care of and support human rights; to make it possible for people to express themselves fully through their abilities and talents, to integrate, namely, to share the same hope.”

Then he said that Pope Francis has also used three words in Spanish: “roof: a shelter, a protection, a sign of trust; land: a community, a place to live in and hope; wok: an activity to take part in building a common world and the common good.”

In this connection, “we understand that any action program, any mission with and for people with a migratory experience, exists to act on the causes of migration: the violence of war and power conflicts, poverty, inequality, corruption, human trafficking, abuses, political negligence. He also said that to work on the causes of migration “means to accept to work with countries from which migrants come. It means to venture to support programs of integral human development, including care of the Earth, the environment, water and biodiversity.”

Sister Maria de Lourdes Lodi Rissini

Sister Maria said that South Africa “is the destiny for many migrants and refugees of the whole African Continent and of the world. For example, we receive migrants from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, Malawi, Eswatini, etc. South African has thousands of asylum seekers and refugees, in the majority from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Somalia. Historically, migrants of the countries of southern Africa have entered and left South Africa for work and study opportunities or medical reasons. Some migrants enter the country for one of the reasons mentioned, but they decide to stay. The country is also facing thousands of illegal and stateless immigrants.

She also quoted the Report Statistics, South Africa (2019:146), which explains that inequality “in the South African labour market continues to be very high and has increased in the recent past . . . “ The majority of migrants and refugees in South Africa  “work in the informal sector and experience enormous challenges to maintain themselves and their families. It is a thorny subject that is translated in xenophobic/Afro-phobic attacks, as citizens complain that immigrants take their jobs.”

Hence, said Sister Mary, Caritas South Africa has made its own Pope Francis’ message of the “Share the Journey” campaign in our service to migrants and refugees. The liaison Bishop for migrants and refugees in the South African Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued statements and preached on the importance of ‘reception and hospitality.’” Caritas South Africa advocates in North Aliwal that illegal “children be allowed to enter in the South African educational system and be documented. There have been successes in this connection through judicial cases.”

Moreover, in a place such as Rustenburg, which is a mining area, “Caritas plays an essential role in the reception of immigrants and helps them to integrate in the society. Caritas helps many women and children from neighbouring countries that arrive in the mining city following their husbands. Sometimes, when the women arrive, they find that their husbands are living with other women or have formed a new family. This is one of the reason why they don’t send money.”

Moreover, she pointed out that “to rent a house or to own one, is a great problem, especially for migrant and refugee women and their children in any South African city.” Therefore, Caritas helps these families to pay the rent while they look for employment. “There are initiatives to help migrants and refugees, especially those from non-English speaking countries, to learn English to be able to integrate and find better opportunities for their families. Caritas South Africa is opening its arms to receive migrants and refugees, committing itself with different interested parties to improve their lives and to defend their human rights.”

During South Africa’s lockdown due to COVID-19, many immigrants and refugees lost their jobs and Caritas South Africa, “spurred by the message of the “Share the Journey” campaign, helped them “with basic needs: awareness and precaution regarding COVID-10, food, clothing, shelter and health services.” Thus “the migrants and refugees became our priority, given that our government excluded them when offering aid to citizens,” she concluded.