We are called to welcome the stranger.
Columban missionaries serve migrants and refugees in a dozen countries throughout Asia Pacific and the Americas, as well as on the U.S. – Mexico border. Keeping in mind the Gospel mandate and our Catholic Social Teaching, we strive to “welcome the stranger” and to protect and promote the rights of migrants and refugees everywhere.
As Columbans, we believe we are called to both serve the needs of migrants and to address the root causes of migration.
We advocate for action on root causes of migration.
In 2015, the number of migrants internationally reached 244 million, including 20 million refugees (UN Migration). These include economic migrants compelled to move to feed their families, refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing persecution and environmental crises, and victims of human trafficking.
We recognize the right to migrate in order to seek both safety and a higher quality of life, but often global economic policies, environmental crises, and conflicts result in grave inequalities and unstable conditions forcing people to move. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has recognized, “all peoples have the right to conditions worthy of human life and, if these conditions are not present, the right to migrate.”
We advocate for compassionate immigration reform.
Columbans respond to the harsh realities that migrants face, including separation from their families and imprisonment in detention centers and jails. Compassionate immigration reform is necessary to ensure family unity, protect the rights and dignity of migrants, and heal our communities.
On the U.S. – Mexico Border, countless migrants have risked death and deportation to cross into the U.S. in order to flee the violence and instability in their home countries. In the midst of a destructive militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, Columbans call for a more compassionate border policy that affirms the dignity of migrants and celebrates the vibrancy and importance of border communities which continue to welcome our migrant brothers and sisters.
We advocate for reforms to stop human trafficking.
Migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking often leave their home countries to seek better economic conditions to support their families. This too can lead to exploitation of migrants, putting them in danger of death or serious injury, sexual abuse, and low wages. As God calls us to respect the dignity of every human life, we must continue to support policies that represent the interests of migrant workers and refugees.
The United States government is forcing people to wait in Mexico while their asylum claim goes through the immigration court process. The President and his administration are doing all they can to limit access to life-saving protections (such as asylum) by building a physical wall and also a policy wall.
The world today badly needs a renewed spirit of cross-cultural exchange. We need to be more like the Church’s great missionaries. Not only do cultural differences enrich us and lead us closer to God, but they also allow us to transcend the trivial factionalism that even St. Columban encountered.
The federal budget is a moral document that reflects our priorities as a society. One issue where our budget does not reflect our vision for a justice and peaceful society is immigration enforcement.
The call from border communities is for new leadership, that will defend human dignity, offer compassion, work for justice, celebrate diversity. We must continue to reject hatred and violence, racism and xenophobia, and immigration and refugee policies that exclude and punish the most vulnerable among us.
An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and child behind chains, used during the process at the Catholic Day of Action against child detention in Newark, NJ (Sept. 2019)
At a time when we are witnessing our government build walls on the US – Mexico border and close the door to refugees and asylum-seekers everywhere, we need to pause and ask: “Why have our hearts grow so cold? Why are we so afraid?"
Copyright © 2019 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.