POPE Francis has urged world leaders to address the causes of the wave of migration currently overwhelming Europe “before it is too late”.
Many of the forces driving people to risk their lives to make it to Europe could have been dealt with earlier, the Pope said. He was particularly critical of countries that were preventing regular migration, thereby forcing would-be refugees to turn to people-smugglers; and he appealed “for an end to trafficking in persons, which turns human beings, especially the weakest and most defenceless, into commodities.
“The image of all those children who died at sea, victims of human callousness and harsh weather, will remain for ever imprinted on our minds and hearts.”
Pope Francis was speaking on Monday, giving his annual New Year address to diplomats stationed in the Vatican (above). Besides urging that Europe’s leaders do more, he traced how the Bible revealed the history of “humanity on the move”.
“Human history is made up of countless migrations,” he said, and called on all to hear the “plea of thousands of people who weep as they flee horrific wars, persecutions and human rights violations, or political or social instability”. Many were fleeing cruelty and violence motivated by hatred for their religion, the Pope reminded his audience, including Christians who were being forced away from their historic homelands in the Middle East.
But concerns about taking in millions of migrants were legitimate as well: “The massive number of arrivals on the shores of Europe appear to be overburdening the system of reception painstakingly built on the ashes of the Second World War,” he said. “Equally significant are fears about security, further exacerbated by the growing threat of international terrorism.”
The Pope insisted that acknowledging the dignity of every human being and mutual solidarity were fundamental to solving this problem, even as Europe’s traditional values were being stretched to breaking point.
Touching on his recent visit to the Central African Republic, which has been racked by sectarian warfare for several years (News, 4 December), Pope Francis said that, in a nation where the name of God had been misused to “perpetrate injustice”, he wanted to affirm together with the Muslim community that those who claimed to believe in God “must also be men and women of peace”.