Global Migration Needs Pluralism Not Religious Sectarianism, Says Vatican Group

Migrant workers from Christian, Muslim and other backgrounds have common interests and should seek to support each other, the final text of the twelfth plenary session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People declared last week. Overall the statement also encourages the Catholic Church to move away from a Christendom mentality and to embrace social pluralism, women’s perspectives, integrated education, the rejection of religious sectarianism and violence, and a recognition of common humanity in and through differences of belief. Entitled ‘Migration and itinerancy from and towards majority Islamic countries’, the new Vatican document explores these issues through the global phenomenon of human mobility and examines a range of religious and spiritual challenges – alongside social, cultural, economic and political concerns. Says the Pontifical Council: Catholics, in particular, are called to practice solidarity with Muslim immigrants, to be open to sharing with them and to know more about their culture and religion. At the same time they are [able] to bear witness to their own Christian values in the light of [the] new evangelization, which of course respects freedom of conscience and religion. The _new evangelisation’ is a Catholic pastoral process of formation whereby the Gospel is discovered and shared through listening and dialogue – rather than through the manipulations of proselytism. The statement calls for a mutual process of acceptance and integration, claiming: While it is necessary to welcome Muslim immigrants with respect for their religious freedom, it is likewise indispensable for them to respect the cultural and religious identity of the host societies. The Council suggests that the principle of reciprocity requires a distinction to be drawn between elements of a religious or social culture which need to be respected and those which may threaten or marginalize others. The role of legislation is to maintain public space and civil rights for all. The statement continues: It is therefore necessary to move towards a distinction between the civil and the religious spheres in Islamic countries, too. In any case, it is fundamental, in this context, to distinguish between the West and Christianity, because often Christian values no longer inspire the attitude, position or actions (also with regard to public opinion) in the so-called western world. Regarding the situation in a number Islamic-majority countries, the Pontifical Council declares: Christians and migrant workers in general, who are [often] poor and without real contractual power, have great difficulty in having their human rights recognised. It says that Muslim nations should be expected to practice the minority rights they rightly expect elsewhere. The document also speaks of the need for a renewed commitment to involve women in decision making, especially in issues affecting them, as well as in the work of convincing parents to provide girls with an education equivalent to that given to boys, who should obviously include ethical formation. The section on schools and education emphasizes that it is also important to assure education to the new generations, because the school has a fundamental role to play in overcoming the conflict of ignorance and prejudices; and [it is also important] to have a correct and objective knowledge of the other’s [beliefs], with special attention to the freedom of conscience and religion. It goes on: Muslim parents and religious leaders must be helped to understand the righteous intentions of the western educational systems and the concrete consequences of their refusal of the education imparted in the schools of these systems within which their children live. The Pontifical Council argues that religious, civil and human rights are mutually necessary in secular, Muslim-majority and Christian-majority contexts, and that conflict needs to be addressed with a definite intention to prevent war, violence and terrorism. It is in any case necessary to avoid the abusive use of religion to inculcate hatred for believers of other religions, or for ideological and political reasons, the document asserts. It concludes: It is therefore hoped that Muslim and Christian intellectuals, in the name of a common humanism and out of their respective beliefs, would pose for themselves stark questions about the use of violence, often still perpetrated in the name of their religions.