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Archive for the ‘Interreligious Movement’ Category

Tahil Sharma and Sara Rahim to Represent Parliament at United Nations-DPI Youth Body

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was honored by receiving outstanding applications to represent us at the Youth Representative program of the United Nations DPI-NGO body for 2014. As the UN works to implement its post Millennium Development Goals agenda, these young leaders stand to implement action aligned to the Parliament’s mission of creating a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

We are pleased to announce the representatives selected are Ms. Sara Rahim and Mr. Tahil Sharma.

  • Sara Rahim

    Ms. Sara Rahim, will complete a double major in Public Health and International Studies from Saint Louis University this year. Sara’s passion for social justice expands to global health, interfaith, and refugee/migration issues. She has studied Arabic in Egypt, offered healthcare in Honduras, and spent a semester in Morocco, where she conducted a study on access to healthcare for undocumented sub-Saharan migrants. She later returned to Morocco to work with grassroots NGOs that focus on sub-Saharan female migrants’ health. On campus, Sara has spearheaded the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Challenge for the past two years, while organizing student interfaith programming. Off campus, Sara has interned at Interfaith Youth Core coaching students to be leaders of interfaith action, and she has worked in refugee resettlement at World Relief. In the future, Sara would like to pursue a career in global health and international development, with a focus on communities in conflict, and she hopes to use interfaith as a tool towards sustainable development. 

Sara reflects, “Throughout my undergraduate experience, interfaith has always been a tool to build bridges across diverse traditions and to mobilize my community towards action. In the future, I hope to continue to work with communities in conflict towards building those bridges and improving access to areas such as health and education. Being able to represent the Parliament at the UN will allow me to live my mission on a national platform and engage with like-minded leaders towards building a global ethic.”

Tahil Sharma

  • Mr. Tahil Sharma, a senior who will complete his B.A. in International Studies and Languages at LaVerne University in California.

Tahil Sharma is working to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, with emphases in Japanese and International Studies at the University of La Verne in Southern California. Serving as an interfaith activist for numerous years, he is currently employed as the Coordinator for the Center for Sikh Studies at Claremont Lincoln University, under the Claremont School of Theology. His work in peace and community service has named him a Newman Civic Fellow for working with local communities on issues related to discrimination and prejudice, as well as issues of food insecurity.

Tahil reflects, “getting the chance to go to the United Nations means that I can take part in changing the way diplomacy and foreign relations are dealt with in our day and age. The context of culture and religion play such significant roles in our society that not recognizing and respecting them would create misnomers for the identity of numerous people. Declaring the value and necessity of inter-religious amity and cooperation would mean informing and bring the world together for the greater good of humanity.”

Congratulations to Tahil Sharma, Sara Rahim, and to the next generation of interfaith leaders who are rapidly advancing the interfaith movement beyond limits.

Elijah Interfaith Examines Upcoming Papal Visit to Holy Land

Via the Elijah Interfaith Institute

On February 2, the Elijah Interfaith Institute hosted an interreligious forum discussing the significance of the Pope’s forthcoming visit to the Holy Land, and the hopes the visit inspires for improved relationships between Christians, Muslims and Jews. The event at the historic YMCA was held in honour of UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. The forum was chaired by Elijah’s Director of Educational Activities, Peta Jones Pellach.

Rabbi Dr Alon Goshen-Gottstein, founder and executive directors of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, opened the discussion by showing that Pope Francis is not only Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ – making him a ‘pop star’ – but he is also on the front cover of Rolling Stone – making him ‘not just a pop star, but a rock star!’ This enormously popular Pope is genuinely close to the Jewish people – but is he really able to do more in terms of interreligious reconciliation that his predecessors? The previous two Popes visited the Holy Land. In both cases, their interreligious initiatives failed. Instead of symbolising the hope for healing, the events- at least the aspects of them covered by the media- underscored differences and hostility. This visit does not include an interfaith event – almost certainly because of the previous failures . So how can it provide hope and inspiration for improved interreligious relations?

The Pope has a very close friend, Rabbi Avraham Skorka. Skorka has said to the media that the Pope’s visit will herald a new relationship between religions and will have significance for the entire world. This, suggests Skorka, may happen through the unique touch, the gesture, the symbol, the way the Pope knows to communicate beyond words. So, continued Goshen-Gottstein, do we share Skorka’s view? What are our expectations and what wish or hope can we express for the papal visit?

Bishop William Shomali, the auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, is involved in planning the visit of Pope Francis and is aware of the program of his trip – details of which are under embargo. He is full of hope for the visit, even though it will not include a meeting with non-Christian leaders. The biggest hope is the area of ecumenism.

When the Pope’s visit was announced, he told Vatican Radio that the community in the Holy Land is “expecting a lot from this visit. Christians, Jews and Muslims (in the Holy Land) are counting on this visit to intensify the ecumenical and the interreligious relationships,” he said. In his view, one of the highlights will be the encounter between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, along with all of the bishops and patriarchs of the Holy City. He also expressed the hope that this visit would advance relations with the Orthodox Church.

Bishop Shomali reminded the audience that we should not expect immediate results from the visit of the Pope, and that even though we are in the digital age of immediate results, it would be foolish to expect to see changes from such a visit immediately. There will be a difference but it would be noticeable over time.

Pope Francis has said that his prime aim is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and the then spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Atengora. Catholics and Orthodox have been divided since the Great Schism of 1054, precipitated largely by disagreements over the primacy of the Pope.

Pope Francis will be joined in Jerusalem by the current ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew, who became the first ecumenical leader to attend a papal installation since the schism when he traveled to Rome for Francis’ inaugural Mass in March. In fact, the initiative for the visit was Bartholomew’s. They will celebrate Mass together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the faithful believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

Bishop Shomali believes that even though this will be a very short visit, every moment will count and people will be moved. He said that one of his hopes from February), the Elijah Interfaith Institute hosted an the visit is that there will be steps towards the synchronizing of the date of Easter, currently a major point of division between the churches.

Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of AJC and its Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding, received a papal Knighthood in 2005 for his contribution to Jewish-Catholic reconciliation. Rabbi Rosen contextualized the upcoming visit in the framework of Jewish-Christian relations, making the point that all the statements and moves the current Pope has made regarding interreligious reconciliation were already made by his predecessors. The difference is that Pope Francis is loved by the media – and says things in simple language that are easily understood and accepted by the population at large.

Rabbi Rosen has a particular admiration for the many positive moves the previous Pope made regarding relations with non-Catholics. However, the press did not pick up on them. It is Francis who has the charisma – both in the traditional religious sense and in the vernacular use.

Bishop Shomali gave the illustration: Francis has not made new steps in Christian theology towards the environment but in a single line, he moved hearts and minds:

‘God always forgives; humans sometimes forgive; nature never forgives’.

This, his predecessors have said in documents using complicated theological language.

Rabbi Rosen said that precisely because of the brilliance of the Pope in capturing the popular imagination, it is a great shame that this trip is so short and with so few opportunities for meeting the public, and with no opportunities for meetings with other religious leaders. This trip will be positive – but it could be so much more positive. The Rabbi is certain that the public will be inspired and uplifted – despite the elements that will be missing.

Audience members expressed delight and concerns buzzing around the Pope’s upcoming visit.

Audience discussion indicated that both the Bishop and the Rabbis had correctly estimated the affection for the Pope and the hopes people had for a positive outcome from his visit to the Holy Land. Only one ‘negative’ was expressed – the concern that local Roman Catholics would not have an opportunity to celebrate mass with the leader of their religion. The limited nature of the trip is likely to disappoint large numbers of local Catholics who would like to see the Pope close up.

In response to a question about antisemitism in the ranks of the Church, both speakers agreed that all the efforts of the Catholic Church since Nostra Aetate may still not be enough to eliminate antisemitism in every place. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has had a genuine revolution –  Rosen suggests the most radical change of ideology in any time in history – and Jews are no longer blamed for the death of Jesus. Judaism is an ‘older brother’ or ‘parent’ to Christianity. Jesus was unequivocally a Jew – an observant Jew. The Pope’s visit can highlight that unique relationship between these religions.

There was much discussion about the value of symbolism and the fine line between symbolism and substance. Bishop Shomali asked that Israel announce some family reunion visas to Christians to coincide with the visit. The question was raised as to what local Christians and Muslims might do to show their commitment to the spirit of cooperation that the visit would be symbolizing. Rabbi Rosen was concerned that timed gestures should not replace an ongoing commitment to behaving morally and dealing with issues of justice.

Rabbi Rosen’s wife and an activist in her own right, Sharon Rosen, reminded the gathering that the visit of the Pope occurs three weeks after the current round of peace negotiations is supposed to conclude. She raised the hope that the visit would cement some real progress and suggested there are items in the embargoed program that could relate to peace efforts. Alon Goshen-Gottstein concluded the evening by speaking of his (and Elijah’s) hopes for the visit. Goshen-Gottstein also shared the vision of the Centre of HOPE (House of Prayer and Education), where people of all religions will be able to stand side-by-side in prayer, each praying in her own way, and will be able to learn from and about each other.

This vision for Jerusalem, ‘My House will be a House of Prayer for all people’, is fulfillment of the vision of the Prophet Isaiah. Alon wants the Pope to endorse and launch this project. He suggested that this would not take any time from the rushed schedule of the Pope. It could happen between the Western Wall and the Temple Mount – because even the charismatic Pope needs to go from one place to another and cannot just ‘materialise’ there!

The Pope, said Goshen-Gottstein, has already expressed in person his support for this vision. The idea of it being a legacy and a “gift” of this visit is also appreciated by him. What is missing at this stage is the gesture, the image, the public moment of reaching out and announcing a new Hope, in the presence of religious leaders of the Holy Land. The thundering applause from Sunday’s audience for this vision being a fruit of the upcoming papal visit suggests there are many who appreciate the need for an institutional breakthrough and for new opportunities for religious communities in Jerusalem and worldwide. HOPE could be an important expression of hope for the Pope to leave us with.


Women of Spirit and Faith Invite Contributors to Divine Feminine

Via Kathe Schaaf, Women of Spirit and Faith:






Attention women of the CPWR community: Women of Spirit and Faith hosts a collaborative blog ‘The Divine Feminine’ on the media platform. You are invite to contribute a post during the month of February exploring the following question:

Women of Spirit and Faith was born at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, where we saw an opportunity to invite women who are ‘spiritual but not religious’ into the interfaith conversation and to affirm the spiritual leadership of all women.

We are continuously inspired and energized by the wisdom of the women who have joined the WSF community. Their creativity and passion are one of the many forces shifting and changing the interfaith community, which we see rapidly evolving beyond dialogue and into a living experience of co-creation, collaboration and support.  Tell us what you see happening in your life.

Send a blog of 100-800 words to Divine Feminine blog to Please include a one-sentence bio and a photograph of yourself.

Pagan Imbolc Stirs the Spirit, Shakes Off the Winter Blues

Imbolc: Marking the Time of Winter’s Waning

It is Winter; the wind howls and Mother Nature lies sleeping, deep under a blanket of snow. Bare branches, stark against the slate gray sky, crack against each other like knucklebones, and when the winds really howl they snap, hitting the snow covered ground with a hushed thump.

On the Great Wheel of the Year, this is the time of Imbolc. In the Celtic seasonal calendar, Imbolc marked the beginning of the lambing season. The ewes came into their milk and the first stirrings of Spring began.

This is the ‘quickening of the year’; there is a spark hidden below the surface, like a new pregnancy, barely perceptible and yet urgently anticipated and holding great promise. The seed stirs in the belly of the Earth.

Traditionally, Imbolc was the great festival in honor of Brigid (Brighid, Brigit, Bride), so beloved as a Pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church and she became St. Bridget. Brigid is a Triple Goddess, of poetry, smithing, and healing arts. She is also a Goddess of fire, and of the hearth; she brings fertility to the land and its people.

Other archetypes and characters that might be honored at this time are the Cailleach, the old woman in the stone; Lucia with her crown of candles, and of course the Ground Hog, whose story bears surprising similarities to the Pagan mythologies of Kore or Persephone.

Most Pagans, the People of the Earth, are (naturally or through training) consciously attuned to and aware of the differences in the energies of the land as we move through the seasons. We find certainty in the concept of mirroring — “as above so below; as without so within.”  The light, which is mature and at its full height at the Summer Solstice, is now in the belly of Mother Earth at the time of Imbolc.

The original word ‘Imbolc’ means ‘in the belly’, which aptly identifies the underlying energy of this time of year. We do not feel the same vibrant vitality and enthusiasm that we feel in June, at the time of Imbolc.

We use this Imbolc time to finish the season of spiraling inward, of reflection, and dreaming. We hold tightly to the promise of renewal, and awakening, and with the returning light we have hope.

With Imbolc we also begin to experience some sense of relief in another way. The lengthening daylight, which began at the Winter Solstice, can alleviate the struggle so many of us may have with Seasonal Affective Disorder. (S.A.D.)

Denmark, given its geographical location endures particularly long, dark winters. One would think there would be a high number of people affected with seasonal depression in that country. Interestingly, Denmark lays claim to being the happiest place on Earth.

According to Mother Nature Network, the Danish word that embodies this particular kind of happiness is ‘hygge’ (pronounced hYOOgah). Blogger Russell McLenden says, “ ‘Hygge’ may sound alien outside Denmark, but its general ethos of enduring wintry gloom with coziness and camaraderie could help raise spirits almost anywhere.”

My community embraces this concept. Through the Winter months while Persephone reigns in the Underworld, and her mother, Demeter expresses her grief through a barren landscape, we make a point of gathering together in each other’s homes, sharing food and stories, and small comforts that sooth worried hearts.

At Imbolc, we acknowledge and feel gratitude for the good fortune of having made it through the cold dark Winter — something our ancestors may not have so easily taken for granted. We feel the first stirrings and anticipate the return of Persephone, the maiden of Spring.

We weave solar wheels (Brighid’s crosses), which pre-date Christianity, and which are said to protect the house from fire. We bake; we braid bread and churn butter. We dip candles, to remind us of the fire that burns in the belly, and the spark that ignites deep in the Earth. With each dip of our new candles we are reminded that just as the snow hides the Earth, the layers of wax hide the promise of light within — within the candle and within ourselves.

We gather in a circle on a quiet hillside. Standing together on the hard packed snow we feel the quickening beneath our feet. Hand to hand, we allow the rhythm of our breath and the drumbeat of our hearts to synchronize with Her rhythm and with each other. As our flames burn bravely in their little glass jars, we experience the connection to the Earth. We are blessed by the fullness of heart and Spirit that comes from spending time on the land with loved ones, as we contemplate our own hidden fires and await the return of Spring.

We are the People of the Earth and these are the Earth Traditions.


Rev. Angie Buchanan

Rev. Angie Buchanan, Parliament Board Trustee Emeritus

Rev. Angie Buchanan is a Family Tradition Pagan. She is a founder and director of Gaia’s Womb, an interfaith spirituality group for women, and Earth Traditions, a Pagan Church that also offers a Training Program for Pagan Ministry.  Angie has a background in law enforcement and politics. She consults with multiple religious and interreligious groups, encouraging dialogue and understanding. She is a former instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary, having taught Introduction to Interfaith there for four years.  Angie travels, speaking to groups at churches and schools about Paganism, religious freedom, the Global Ethic, the separation of church and state, and the First Amendment. She has been a presenter at a number of interfaith events, including the 2004 Parliament and the Buddhist Council of the Midwest Women’s Conference. She has worked with CPWR as a Board Member since 2002.

North American Interfaith Network Issues Save The Date for Detroit Connect

The Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit is hosting this year’s NAIN conference Sunday, August 10 through Wednesday August 13 at Michigan’s Wayne State University. Connect 2014 will focus on a theme of Bridging Borders and Boundaries, and is now open for early bird registration.

Dr. Mary Nelson, the Parliament’s executive director, says she is grateful that there are opportunities like NAIN where the Interfaith community is strengthened. “The Parliament seeks to better connect with other interfaith groups and is happy to encourage this important relationship as we all work together to better achieve a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.”

Parliament representatives at the 2013 Toronto event enjoyed celebrating 25 years of NAIN, and learning the history of the 1993 Connect held in conjunction with the centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, from attendees who were in attendance for both, and was as an animating moment for the interfaith community as it began to globalize.

More information will be shared as it becomes available. For now, download NAIN Connect 2014 official Save the Date here. 


Call for Applications: Cross-Cultural UK Fellowship (Deadline February 9)

A unique experience for social entrepreneurs and leaders is opportune in the announcement of the fifth edition of the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship to be held this August at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK). This initiative is sponsored by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation in New York. 

Those from a Jewish and/or Muslim cultural background are encouraged to apply, though the fellowship is open to qualified candidates interested in cross-cultural dialogue from all backgrounds. Deadline for completing applications is February 9, 2014 (midnight, CET). 

To apply, click here.

For more information visit Ariane De Rothschild fellowship on the web, Facebook, or Twitter.



Inviting you to Share Messages of Peace and Non-Violence in Chicago (Sharing Sacred Spaces)

Suzanne Morgan, Ambassador of Sacred Spaces of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions invites you to share with the Downtown Chicago faith communities of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Sharing Sacred Spaces project as they present an interreligious community building program entitled “Sharing Sacred Text: Messages of Peace and Non-Violence.” The gathering will be held on February 16 at the Buchanan Chapel of Fourth Presbyterian Church. 126 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago.

Inviting You to a Collection of Chicago’s Sacred Spaces

Suzanne Morgan, Sacred Spaces Ambassador of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is exhibiting her architectural models at Fourth Presbyterian Church.

Suzanne Morgan, founder of Sacred Space International, and Sacred Space Ambassador for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions would like to invite you to join us at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church for an exhibition of her growing architectural model collection, featured in the Loggia Space from now until March 3, 2014.

Featured congregations are:

  • Unity Temple
  • St. Benedict the African
  • Perlman Sanctuary at North Shore Congregation Israel
  • The Assumption Greek Orthodox Church
  • First Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran
  • Holy Family Church

Fourth Church Hours:

Monday to Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. |Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. | Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

126 E. Chestnut Street (just west of Michigan Ave.) | Chicago, IL | 60611.2014 | 312.787.4570

Additionally, taking place on February 14th, 2014, Fourth Presbyterian Church will be hosting Suzanne Morgan to give a talk detailing both the collection and the culture and history behind each of the featured congregations.

Suzanne Morgan Presents:

Congregations Seen Through Their Sacred Spaces: A Collection of Chicagoland’s Religious Architecture

Located at:

Fourth Presbyterian Church, Gratz Center, Room 4G


February 14, 2014

  • 6:00 – 6:30 Attendee Check-In
  • 6:30 – 7:30 Suzanne Morgan
  • 7:30 – 8:30 Social Hour

This program has a registration fee of $10 required in advance. To register, contact Anne Ellis (312.573.3369). Registration will not be available at the door.

Parliament Board Elects 10 New Trustees for 2014

The Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is announcing the election of all ten new trustees. Ushering a new era for the Parliament, this year’s board comprises 19 denominations of 11 global religious, faith, and spiritual traditions, constituting a more robust 27-member body.

News is spreading about the elections of returning trustee emeriti, including Dr. Kusumita Pederson who is currently co-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York, Andras Corban Arthen, founding and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit community, and Swami Varadananda of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, who was among the three incorporating trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

The seven new faces on the Board are teeming with expertise, a group comprised of both elders of and dynamic up-and-comers in the Interfaith movement. These trustees are experienced leaders of religion, business, and scholarship. Get to know:

  • Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi: International Peace Activist and Author Arun Gandhi. , who founded the MK Gandhi Center for Non-Violence and publishes gripping books.
  • One of the first trustees to identify explicitly as a pluralist: author Tom Lemberg, a Boston-based attorney.
  • Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith Movement who created the”Golden Rule” license plate Dr. Paul Eppinger.
  • Veteran Leader in the World Sikh and Interfaith Community, Scientist: Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal
  • Journalist, preservationist, published author, and playwright, Dr. Gianfranco Grande who serves as a Senior Vice President of Partners for Sacred Places.
  • Executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based organization in Chicago that works to eliminate race and class barriers and advocates for social and economic justice, Dr. Larry Greenfield
  • The Deputy Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, past Parliament of the World’s Religions panelist Rev. Nicole Diroff.

As the Parliament continues to profile the newest trustees, they are taking places on newly formed standing committees for the year 2014 and busy in their personal endeavors. Just this week Arun Gandhi delivered a keynote speech on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Georgia, while Dr. Paul Eppinger was being honored by Arizona State University for his successful campaign to see Arizona declare MLK Jr. Day a state holiday in 1992.

Keep your eyes on this Class of 2016, and look for deep-reaching features with each of them in the months ahead.

The Parliament traces back its origins to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. It was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

Pope Pledges Better World in Message for Migrants and Refugees Day

On Friday, January 17 falls the 2014 observance of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in the Roman Catholic Church. His Holiness Pope Francis sets the themeTowards a Better World for this year’s observance with the following statement. World Refugee Day as proclaimed in 2000 by the United Nations is June 20. 

Via The Vatican:


Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our societies are experiencing, in an unprecedented way, processes of mutual interdependence and interaction on the global level. While not lacking problematic or negative elements, these processes are aimed at improving the living conditions of the human family, not only economically, but politically and culturally as well. Each individual is a part of humanity and, with the entire family of peoples, shares the hope of a better future. This consideration inspired the theme I have chosen for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year: Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World.

In our changing world, the growing phenomenon of human mobility emerges, to use the words of Pope Benedict XVI, as a “sign of the times” (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Migrants and Refugees). While it is true that migrations often reveal failures and shortcomings on the part of States and the international community, they also point to the aspiration of humanity to enjoy a unity marked by respect for differences, by attitudes of acceptance and hospitality which enable an equitable sharing of the world’s goods, and by the protection and the advancement of the dignity and centrality of each human being.

From the Christian standpoint, the reality of migration, like other human realities, points to the tension between the beauty of creation, marked by Grace and the Redemption, and the mystery of sin. Solidarity, acceptance, and signs of fraternity and understanding exist side by side with rejection, discrimination, trafficking and exploitation, suffering and death. Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement. Nowadays, “slave labour” is common coin! Yet despite the problems, risks and difficulties to be faced, great numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be inspired by confidence and hope; in their hearts they long for a better future, not only for themselves but for their families and those closest to them.

What is involved in the creation of “a better world”? The expression does not allude naively to abstract notions or unattainable ideals; rather, it aims at an authentic and integral development, at efforts to provide dignified living conditions for everyone, at finding just responses to the needs of individuals and families, and at ensuring that God’s gift of creation is respected, safeguarded and cultivated. The Venerable Paul VI described the aspirations of people today in this way: “to secure a sure food supply, cures for diseases and steady employment… to exercise greater personal responsibility; to do more, to learn more, and have more, in order to be more” (Populorum Progressio, 6).

Our hearts do desire something “more”. Beyond greater knowledge or possessions, they want to “be” more. Development cannot be reduced to economic growth alone, often attained without a thought for the poor and the vulnerable. A better world will come about only if attention is first paid to individuals; if human promotion is integral, taking account of every dimension of the person, including the spiritual; if no one is neglected, including the poor, the sick, prisoners, the needy and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:31-46); if we can prove capable of leaving behind a throwaway culture and embracing one of encounter and acceptance.

Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history. As the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects, and to maximize its positive influence on the communities of origin, transit and destination.

While encouraging the development of a better world, we cannot remain silent about the scandal of poverty in its various forms. Violence, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms, whether of individuals or of groups: these are some of the chief elements of poverty which need to be overcome. Often these are precisely the elements which mark migratory movements, thus linking migration to poverty. Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate. Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity.

The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner; more than anything, this calls for international cooperation and a spirit of profound solidarity and compassion. Cooperation at different levels is critical, including the broad adoption of policies and rules aimed at protecting and promoting the human person. Pope Benedict XVI sketched the parameters of such policies, stating that they “should set out from close collaboration between the migrants’ countries of origin and their countries of destination; they should be accompanied by adequate international norms able to coordinate different legislative systems with a view to safeguarding the needs and rights of individual migrants and their families, and at the same time, those of the host countries” (Caritas in Veritate, 62). Working together for a better world requires that countries help one another, in a spirit of willingness and trust, without raising insurmountable barriers. A good synergy can be a source of encouragement to government leaders as they confront socioeconomic imbalances and an unregulated globalization, which are among some of the causes of migration movements in which individuals are more victims than protagonists. No country can singlehandedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon, which is now so widespread that it affects every continent in the twofold movement of immigration and emigration.

It must also be emphasized that such cooperation begins with the efforts of each country to create better economic and social conditions at home, so that emigration will not be the only option left for those who seek peace, justice, security and full respect of their human dignity. The creation of opportunities for employment in the local economies will also avoid the separation of families and ensure that individuals and groups enjoy conditions of stability and serenity.

Finally, in considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration. Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase. The communications media have a role of great responsibility in this regard: it is up to them, in fact, to break down stereotypes and to offer correct information in reporting the errors of a few as well as the honesty, rectitude and goodness of the majority. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world. The communications media are themselves called to embrace this “conversion of attitudes” and to promote this change in the way migrants and refugees are treated.

I think of how even the Holy Family of Nazareth experienced initial rejection: Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew what it meant to leave their own country and become migrants: threatened by Herod’s lust for power, they were forced to take flight and seek refuge in Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-14). But the maternal heart of Mary and the compassionate heart of Joseph, the Protector of the Holy Family, never doubted that God would always be with them. Through their intercession, may that same firm certainty dwell in the heart of every migrant and refugee.

The Church, responding to Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations”, is called to be the People of God which embraces all peoples and brings to them the proclamation of the Gospel, for the face of each person bears the mark of the face of Christ! Here we find the deepest foundation of the dignity of the human person, which must always be respected and safeguarded. It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God’s own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. They are an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world and a more open and evangelical Christian community. Migration can offer possibilities for a new evangelization, open vistas for the growth of a new humanity foreshadowed in the paschal mystery: a humanity for which every foreign country is a homeland and every homeland is a foreign country.

Dear migrants and refugees! Never lose the hope that you too are facing a more secure future, that on your journey you will encounter an outstretched hand, and that you can experience fraternal solidarity and the warmth of friendship! To all of you, and to those who have devoted their lives and their efforts to helping you, I give the assurance of my prayers and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 5 August 2013


January 16th, 2014 at 1:01 pm