Pope Francis called for greater international cooperation to improve conditions for the world’s rising numbers of migrants and called on the media to combat prejudices that make immigrants unwelcome in their new countries.
The Pope’s words came in his annual message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated January 19, 2014.
“Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history,” the Pope wrote.
According to the United Nations, 232 million people, representing 3.2 percent of the world’s population, are currently international migrants, up from 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990. A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center listed Mexico as world’s largest source of emigrants, and the US as the most popular immigration destination.
Noting that many migrants experience “rejection, discrimination, trafficking and exploitation, suffering and death,” Pope Francis wrote that migration “needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner,” marked by “international cooperation and a spirit of profound solidarity and compassion.”
Bilateral relations between countries of origin and destination, as well as international norms on the rights of migrants and host countries, can help national governments “confront socioeconomic imbalances and an unregulated globalisation, which are among some of the causes of migration movements in which individuals are more victims than protagonists,” he wrote.
Pope Francis also encouraged countries 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”.
Many citizens of host countries treat immigrations with “suspicion and hostility,” the Pope wrote. “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.”
In response, he added, the communications media have a special responsibility 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.”
The Pope invoked the Holy Family’s experience of migration during its flight into Egypt as a source of encouragement to migrants.
Though forced to flee to protect the infant Jesus from death at the hands of King Herod, Mary and Joseph “never doubted that God would always be with them,” Pope Francis wrote. “Through their intercession, may that same firm certainty dwell in the heart of every migrant and refugee.”