South American bishops say countries must work together to address migrant crisis

ROME – Catholics working on the border of Peru, Bolivia and Chile met May 23-25 ​​in Arica, Chile – a small town in the north of the country – to reflect on the reality of migrants in the region . At the end of the three-day meeting, participants declared that no country can meet the challenges posed by the migration crisis alone.

Many governments in the region – particularly in Chile – have tightened their entry requirements, but neither this, nor the difficult terrain, the length of the journeys, nor the COVID-19 pandemic have been able to prevent the inhabitants of Latin America to leave to seek a better life.

Migration to the continent has increased due to economic uncertainty, security concerns and political crises. The situation in Venezuela alone has created more than five million migrants, most of whom, around 4.6 million, are accepted by neighboring countries.

In a final statement, those gathered at the May meeting said: “In the light of the Word of God and the testimonies of the participants, we are aware of the complexity of the urgent pastoral care of our brothers and sisters in crisis situations. human. mobility.”

In these times marked by the political, social, economic and humanitarian crises that countries are going through – aggravated by the pandemic – “it is important to recognize that no country in the region can, acting alone, meet the challenges presented by migration “.

According to the United Nations, in 2021 there were 210 million poor people in Latin America, one of the most unequal continents in the world in terms of wealth distribution.

“Catholic communities, increasingly freed from all fear, are called to build bridges with newcomers by promoting an authentic culture of encounter,” the meeting participants wrote, quoting Pope Francis.

“These communities are invited to see the presence of many non-Christian or non-believing migrants and refugees as a providential opportunity to accomplish the evangelizing mission through witness and charity.”

The meeting document emphasizes pastoral and social actions by all sectors of society to avoid “deepening the cracks of social exclusion” in the face of such a devastating problem.

The group also pointed out that, for many people, “migration continues to be a heartbreak and suffering, which is compounded when they receive dehumanizing treatment from state, civil and/or church organizations.” .

Society as a whole, says the message, should reflect and try to understand “that we are facing a situation never seen before in the region, marked by processes of forced migration that push us to develop actions that reinforce social values , always placing people at the center axis.”

A state’s legitimate right to defend its sovereignty, they wrote, cannot be done “indolently”. On the contrary, it is “essential to humanize the treatment received by migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking and smuggling, promoting reception, protection and integration processes with dignity, in accordance with the law and in accordance with international treaties, only then can migration be discouraged.”

In a statement, the Bishop of Arica, Moisés Atisha Contreras, said the meeting has been held eight times over the past 15 years.

“The theme has always been the border situation, human mobility, human trafficking,” he said. “These last two, three meetings with him are marked mainly by forced migration from Venezuela, but also the Haitian situation.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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