“I Was A Stranger and You Welcomed Me!” Jesus of Nazareth

International Migration

At this time of year a significant focal point of the international community is International Migrants Day on December 18. This date was selected in 2000 to commemorate the UN General Assembly adopting the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. It is also significant that at this particular time of year the Christian community recalls the journey of the Family of Nazareth (Mary and Joseph) as they travel, like so many migrants, to a foreign and inhospitable area.

Globalization, war, natural disasters, poverty, violence, among other causes, has greatly increased the number of persons moving from one location to another. Today it is estimated that approximately 214 million persons are migrants. When migrants are treated fairly and their human rights are protected then they can be a force for good and can make wonderful contributions to the social situations they are entering. When their rights are violated or they are marginalized or excluded then that particular society suffers as well since they cannot contribute either economically or socially.

Five guiding principles supported by the social teaching of the Catholic Church are:

  1. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland, that is, countries have a responsibility to provide positive economic, social and political conditions so that individuals do not need to migrate.
  2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families and therefore should be given special consideration when seeking refuge and work.  War, poverty, political unrest all contribute to persons fleeing their homelands.
  3. Sovereign nations have a right to control their borders and to control immigration but it should be in the service of the universal common good and not just the good of their citizens. In other words, a country needs to regulate its borders not only in a just manner but also bring a compassionate element to its laws so that all are treated in a safe and dignified manner.
  4. Those fleeing persecution in their home countries and seeking asylum in another country should always be afforded protection and a safe haven.
  5. The human rights and human dignity of undocumented migrants should be respected in regard to detention in government facilities and they should be afforded legal process.

The Sisters of Mary Reparatrix have taken a stand on the side of the poor and marginalized and have spoken out in defense of migrants and refugees.  The charism of reparation is a call to love all persons.  God is present in all cultures.  In the Christian Scriptures we see that for Jesus, as well as for us, dialogue with strangers was/ can be an occasion of mission and welcome.