Xenophobia, racism and nationalisms. Pope Francis: “The gravity of these phenomena cannot leave us indifferent”

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Thursday, September 20, 2018
The “World Conference on xenophobia, racism and populist nationalisms in the context of global migration” ended today in Rome. Pope Francis’ message to participants: “We live in a time when feelings deemed to have been overcome are taking new life and spreading. Feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged different on the grounds of their ethnic, national or religious identity and, as such, considered not sufficiently worthy of participating fully in the life of society”.

The political realm must not “give in to the temptation to exploit fears”, in order to advance “myopic electoral interests”. Those who “take advantage of the climate of distrust of the foreigner” “should “carry out a profound examination of conscience, in the awareness that one day they will have to respond to God for the choices they made.” Pope Francis harshly condemned all forms of xenophobia and populism that are spreading across the world with regard to the migration crisis. Pope Francis met participants in the “World Conference on xenophobia, racism and populist nationalisms in the context of global migration” that brought together leaders and representatives of Christian Churches in Rome, September 18-20. The meeting was jointly promoted, for the first time, by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the World Council of Churches (WCC), in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, in the awareness of the gravity of these phenomena with a strong, growing impact on social and political life at global level. In a speech addressed to participants, the Pope writes: “We live in a time when feelings deemed to have been overcome are taking new life and spreading. Feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged different on the grounds of their ethnic, national or religious identity and, as such, considered insufficiently worthy of participating fully in the life of society.”

“The gravity of these phenomena cannot leave us indifferent.”

The Pope called upon everyone to contribute to counter these ideological drifts and promote the respect of the dignity of every human person in all circumstances. He described the family as “the place where we learn from a tender age the values ​​of sharing, acceptance, fraternity and solidarity.” He called upon the religious and leaders of Christian Churches to “contribute to building societies founded on the principle of the sacredness of human life.” Created in the image and likeness of God and thus “all members of the same family, brothers and sisters”, tolerance “is transformed into fraternal love, in tenderness and operative solidarity.” This is true “especially for the smallest of our brothers, among whom we can recognize the foreigner, the stranger, with whom Jesus identified himself. On the Day of Judgement the Lord will remind us: ‘I was a stranger and you did not invite me into your home.’ But he is asking us already today”:

“I am a stranger, don’t you recognize me?”

Three days of debates, reflections, prospects. The Rome Conference brought together approximately 200 representatives of Christian Churches from world countries. The program included plenary meetings on the analysis of phenomena of populism and fears, linked to migration, as well as workshops divided according to geographic areas. It clearly emerged that despite the tragic events of the past, including our recent past, xenophobia and racism are resurging in Countries across the globe, influencing the cultural, media and political realms like a wave of contempt. In a final statement, released at the end of the Conference, the Churches stated in clear terms: “To refuse to receive and help those in need is contrary to the example and calling of Jesus Christ.”

“Claiming to protect Christian values or communities by shutting out those who seek safe refuge from violence and suffering is unacceptable.”

Members and leaders of Christian Churches call on “all Christians and all those who support fundamental human rights to reject such populist initiatives incompatible with Gospel values”, especially –they added – “at the time of elections.”

Strong words against racism. It separates “groups of people based on the colour of their skin”, “in the name of a false notion of the purity and superiority of a specific community.” In this sense “racism is a sin”, “radically incompatible with the Christian faith.” “All human beings are equal in dignity and rights and equally to be respected and protected”, the Churches write, adding that: “Migration is an inherent feature of the human condition. It belongs to the whole history of humanity – past, present and future – and the entire biblical narrative.”

We are all migrants and sojourners, and we are all members of the one human family.”
[M. Chiara Biagioni – SIR]