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Conclusions on Migration to and From Islamic Countries

From Plenary Session of Pontifical Council

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2006 (Zenit) - Here are the conclusions and recommendations issued by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, after its plenary assembly May 15-17, on the theme "Migration and Itinerancy from and towards Islamic Majority Countries."

The Vatican press office issued the document Thursday.

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Conclusions and Recommendations

Muslim Migrants in countries of Christian majority

1) In this regard, an increase in immigration of Muslims was observed in European and North American countries, of ancient Christian tradition (see instruction "Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi" -- henceforth EMCC -- Nos. 59 and 65). They come in search of a job or democracy, or for family reunification.

2) From this came the encouragement of integration (not assimilation) of Muslim immigrants (cf. EMCC 2, 60-61).

3) In consequence 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 to bear witness to their own Christian values, also in view of a new evangelization which of course respects freedom of conscience and religion (cf. EMCC, 59 and 69).

4) This means that Christians must get to know more deeply their identity (cf. EMCC, 60) as disciples of Christ, bearing witness to this in their lives and rediscovering their role in the new evangelization (cf. EMCC, 86-88).

5) It is therefore important to affirm the necessity of mutual respect and human solidarity, in an atmosphere of peace, based on the centrality of the human person, his/her dignity, rights and duties.

6) Naturally, each one's human rights and freedoms go hand in hand with those of others.

Dialogue

7) The participants in the Plenary Session strongly showed awareness of the need for authentic dialogue between believers of different religions, especially between Christians and Muslims (cf. EMCC, 69).

8) In this context, relations based on "spiritual emulation" were considered important.

9) Thus, if dialogue between Christians and Muslims is indispensable everywhere, it is especially so in Western societies, in order to improve mutual knowledge and understanding, as well as reciprocal respect and peace.

10) In any case, 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.

11) It was also deemed vital to distinguish between what the receiving societies can and cannot tolerate in Islamic culture, what can be respected or shared with regard to followers of other religions (see EMCC, 65 and 66), and to have the possibility of giving indications in this regard also to policymakers, toward a proper formulation of civil legislation, with due respect for each one's competence.

12) This means also proposing a model of religious dialogue which is not only conversation, nor just listening to one another, but which reaches a mutual revelation of each one's own profound spiritual convictions.

13) It is therefore important to accompany the dialogue partner in the process of thinking out the ethical and actual dimensions, and not only the theological and religious ones, of the consequences of requests addressed to civil society, while duly respecting the distinction between civil and religious dialogue.

14) Given the reaffirmed importance of the principle of reciprocity (see EMCC, 64), confirmed by the Holy Father in his talk to the participants in the plenary session, it is thus necessary to move toward a distinction between the civil and the religious spheres also in Islamic countries.

15) 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 (see EMCC, 60).

16) The participants of the plenary session also expressed the hope that in those areas where Christian and Muslims "live together," they may unite their efforts, together with all their other fellow citizens, to guarantee everyone, without distinction of religion, the full exercise of his/her rights and individual freedoms, personally and as a member of a community.

Situation in some Islamic majority countries

17) On the other hand, in Islamic majority countries, Christians and immigrant workers, in general, who are poor and without real contractual power, have great difficulty in having their human rights recognized. The latter, moreover, have very little possibility of having their cause respected before justice, because they can easily be punished or deported.

18) The Church is therefore called to help Christian migrants in those countries, as well as in the whole world, in a context of due respect for legality and an interest in the formulation of just legislations concerning human mobility and the legal protection of all those involved. However, there were participants who called to mind that, in the different countries, the situation should be such that it would not be necessary for their citizens to go abroad in order to survive.

19) Moreover, in conformity with the directives of the conciliar decree "Christus Dominus" (No. 18), the Church has to ensure that the faithful who are not adequately catered for by the ordinary, i.e. territorial, pastoral ministry on account of their mobility, or are entirely deprived of it, are provided with a specific and even integrated pastoral care. This is true also in Islamic-majority countries.

20) In these countries, it is the task of the local Church to welcome immigrants and itinerants, in spite of a scanty personnel and perhaps inadequate structures.

21) In this respect, dialogue and collaboration are necessary between the Church of origin of migrants and itinerants and that in their destination countries, for their spiritual care. This is in fact a general rule for all countries (cf. EMCC, 70 and 50-55).

22) In addition, international migrants must also be helped to make their own contribution to the community where they live, and to the local portion of the People of God.

23) At the same time, the receiving community should develop a sense of solidarity toward immigrants and others who are in similar circumstances.

Solicitude of the Church in the various sectors of human mobility

The participants in the plenary session also considered the various sectors of migration and itinerancy. Everyone was convinced that with regard to migrants:

24) The Church must take care that they are properly integrated, with due respect for each one's culture and religion (cf. Pope John Paul, Message for the World Day of Peace 2001, No. 8, and Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2005, No. 3).

25) Therefore the Church must encourage dialogue that is intercultural and social, as well as interreligious, with respect for due distinctions (cf. Pope John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 2001, No. 12).

For the various sectors, the following were observed particularly:

26) The need to create bonds of friendship, in an atmosphere of respect for cultural and religious differences, also with people who think of going back to their place of origin, like migrants, or with foreign (international) students who will be the future leaders of their countries.

27) For refugees and foreign students, but not only for these, it was felt desirable to set up chaplaincies.

28) With regard to pilgrimages, the need was underlined to urge pilgrims to seek God's countenance also in the believers of other religions.

29) In airports, crossroads of varied people, and in railway stations, hope was expressed for the presence of specifically Catholic chapels there, or places of prayer, even multi-religious ones, when only those are possible.

30) In Stella Maris Centers (Apostleship of the Sea), it is worthwhile to continue welcoming also Muslim seafarers, with respectful spiritual assistance, when requested.

31) With respect to the gypsy population, object of marginalization, xenophobia and racism, it was deemed necessary to fortify the maturity of democratic societies and their capacity to understand and respect the social, cultural and religious diversity of this people (cf. Guidelines for a Pastoral Care of Gypsies, No. 50).

32) As far as the "women of the street" are concerned -- given that poverty and the trafficking of human beings often lead to selling one's body, and that prostitution may depend on Christians and Muslims -- it is considered necessary to build awareness with the whole society as target.

33) However, a renewed commitment is called for to involve women in decision making, especially in issues affecting them, as well as in the work of convincing parents [to] provide girls with education equivalent to that given to boys, which should obviously include ethical formation.

Schools and education

The participants in the plenary session laid great emphasis on the fact that:

34) It is important to ensure education to the new generations, also because the school has a fundamental role to play in overcoming the conflict of ignorance and prejudices, and to have a correct and objective knowledge of the other's religion, with special attention to the freedom of conscience and religion (cf. EMCC, 62). Moreover, for Christians, provisions will be made to give them the basis for an evangelical discernment of the religious experience of believers in other religions (cf. EMCC, 65) and of the signs of the times.

35) It is therefore indispensable to work for a verification of textbooks also regarding the presentation of history in relation to the religions, which shapes one's identity, and transmits an image of the other's religious identity.

36) In any event it is necessary to delve more deeply into studies, teachings and research regarding the various faces of historical and/or contemporary Islam, including the varying degrees of its acceptance of sound modernity (cf. EMCC, 66).

37) 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.

States and religious freedom

38) Since, very often, it is the state that gives "form" to Islam in certain countries of Islamic majority, organizes its worship, interprets its spirit, transmits its heritage, thus giving the whole of society a globally Islamic character, the non-Muslims very often feel that they are second-class citizens. For Christian immigrants therefore the difficulty is even greater.

39) It is therefore necessary to work hard everywhere so that what prevails would be a culture of "living together" between host and immigrant populations, in a spirit of mutual civic understanding and respect for everyone's human rights. It is also necessary to search ways for reconciliation and of purifying memories (cf. EMCC, 65). We must also become advocates in defense of religious freedom -- our constant imperative -- and of common good, and procure respect for minorities, which is an unquestionable sign of true civilization.

40) It was observed with satisfaction that many states of Islamic majority have established diplomatic relations with the Holy See, thus becoming more sensitive in guaranteeing human rights, affirming the will to establish intercultural and interreligious dialogue, in the framework of sound plurality.

41) In this context, it is necessary to deplore, in some countries, the restrictions of human rights, especially when linked to religious differences, and the absence of the freedom also to change one's religion. It is hoped, however, that the public authorities of the countries of origin of Christian emigrants will help their citizens, in Islamic countries, achieve the effective exercise of religious freedom.

42) Those countries are thus encouraged to create spaces for exchange with countries of Islamic majority, on themes regarding universal common good, respect for minorities, human rights and especially religious freedom, foundation of all freedoms.

43) In any case, the Church must continue its initiatives of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, at different levels, especially when these are facilitated by political leaders.

44) Collaboration between Christian and Muslim institutions to bring aid to individuals and populations in need, without any discrimination, is an effective sign that destroys prejudices and closure toward mutual and reasonable openness.

45) The growing extent to which Muslims and Christians "live together" can provide an opportunity for collaborating together in view of a more peaceful world, respectful of each one's identity and more united in the service of common good, seeing that we all constitute one human family, which is in need of hope (cf. EMCC, 101-103).

46) In this context, collaboration among the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the episcopal conferences and the particular Churches is of capital importance.

47) A factor of unity, in legitimate diversity, will be the awareness of the dignity of every human person, whatever may be his race, culture, citizenship or religion. This is a value that is being affirmed more and more universally, in spite of all the incoherence and its practical denial in daily life.

48). In this context the participants in the plenary session paid particular attention to the African continent, which is in special need of political stability and multilateral cooperation, toward its peaceful and integral development.

49) In this respect, too, some causes of tension and conflict were considered, with the hope that these situations would be resolved justly and quickly, also 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.

50) It is therefore hoped that Muslim and Christian intellectuals, in the name of a common humanism and of their respective beliefs, would pose to themselves the dramatic questions linked to the use of violence, often still perpetrated in the name of their religion.

The role of mass media

51) It is recognized that the media are particularly important for the creation of an appropriate climate of understanding and respect as they give information on religious matters. Journalists and mass media operators, in general, should therefore assume their own responsibilities especially with regard to information, and not only concerning freedom of speech, in a world that is becoming more and more globalized.

52) Mass media can also give an important contribution to the "formation" (and, unfortunately, vice versa, the deformation) of Christians and Muslims.

We conclude this final document noting the great satisfaction of the participants regarding the content, work method and up-to-dateness of this plenary session, which roused great interest.

Vatican City, 19 June 2006

[Translation issued by Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers; adapted]

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