World Day of Peace 2018 Message from Pope Francis
Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Peace 2018 focuses on migrants’ and refugees’ search for peace. Hunger or persecution drive some while the possibility of a life in which they can pursue their full human development draws others. All are seeking peace. By contrast, Francis says that those who foment fear of migrants and refugees “are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia.” (n 3) His words certainly ring true here in Australia.
Approaching the situation with a contemplative gaze, he sees not a threat, but rather an opportunity to build peace. People on the move remind us that we are one human family sharing a common home. Looking at our world in this manner, we see that migrants and refugees do not arrive “empty handed” (n 3). Rather they bring “their courage, skills, energy and aspirations” and the “treasures of their cultures” thus enriching “the lives of the nations that receive them” (n 3). Again, this is the Australian experience.
Welcoming, Protecting & Including Migrants & Refugees
Francis advocates a four-fold strategy of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees. We know that these are practical and positive strategies. After all, we have done each of them in different measures at different times in Australia. Our experience suggests one word of caution. In our public policy discourse, the word “integration” carries some strong negative connotations, especially for our First Peoples. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities the policy known as “integration” was little better than “assimilation lite.” They were the ones who were expected to integrate into and become part of another culture. Perhaps a better word for what Pope Francis is talking about would be “inclusion.” Being included is being recognised as part of the community, sharing rather than giving up, the treasures of one’s culture of origin. In this way we all become part of something new. Perhaps even a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1), already here and not yet complete?
In 2018 two Global Compacts will be negotiated. One will be about migration and the other will concern refugees. They are important because they will provide the framework for policies and programs.
Pope Francis and the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development call all Catholics to get involved in this process. They want the Compacts to be “inspired by compassion, foresight and courage” and to advance peace-building (n 5). Hence they offer Twenty Pastoral Action Points which provide a focus for action. Many of the points directly engage current Australian policies and practices.
Time for Action in 2018
Communities of faith, social service agencies and social justice groups in Australia are actively working for change. For some it is a longstanding commitment. They are providing practical assistance to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and advocating for changes in policy. Furthermore they are seeking to change the way the community understands the story of people seeking peace and security.
While we may already be active, Pope Francis challenges each one of us to consider how we might be involved in 2018.