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Vol. XVII, No. 23 25 October 2013
From the Curia
Statement of the Jesuit Provincials of Europe and the Middle East and of Africa-Madagascar
Migration and Asylum today - "We cannot set borders to our concern"
Rome, Friday October 25th, 2013
We have all seen, in the last number of weeks, the terrible suffering caused to migrants and their families, dramatized in the recent Lampedusa tragedy. In the last twenty years many thousands have died trying to reach Europe. Pope Francis visited Lampedusa and expressed his sympathy outrage and sorrow at the desperate suffering of the migrants. We, the Jesuit Provincials and Major superiors of Europe and the Middle East and of Africa-Madagascar, represent over 6,000 Jesuits across our two continents. We join the Pope in his care and concern for the migrants taking enormous risks to find a better life and fleeing from life-threatening situations in their homelands. We make this statement because we believe this is a time of urgency for our societies in the face of this grave moral issue.
Save lives - a basic moral imperative
The reasons for migratory and refugee flows are complex. Among the most significant are: wars, persecution, economic instability, environmental catastrophe and failed states that cannot provide for their populations. Whatever the reasons, the Lampedusa tragedy shows us that we are all called back to our basic human duty to save lives. We cannot escape that moral imperative.
Stop Arms supplies to Africa
Europe must accept its share of responsibility for global migratory flows. Many European states or their corporations supply arms to Africa, often covertly. These arms supplies fuel conflicts, which, in turn, fuel migratory flows. Our world is so interconnected that we cannot place the border of our concern at the Mediterranean.
The Dublin Regulation
Many European countries are hospitable to asylum seekers. But the 'Dublin Regulation', which states that the countries where they first land have responsibility for assessing their asylum applications, does not facilitate an equal sharing of asylum flows. All of the countries of Europe should support each other in solidarity on this issue and should take joint responsibility for asylum and migrant issues.
Stop Detention of Asylum seekers; improve conditions for migrants in detention
- We oppose the detention of asylum seekers. Alternatives to detention are available; some governments have used them and they have worked well.
- Children, whether migrants or asylum seekers, should be afforded much better protection. In addition, their right to quality education should be ensured.
- Detention conditions of migrants are often sub-human. While we realise that national governments and their social protection systems are stretched, basic human conditions and care of spiritual needs are morally mandatory.
Do not engage in extreme Political discourse
We are concerned about the way in which politicians across a broad spectrum are allowing themselves to be influenced by politicians of the far right. As the search for votes and election success becomes more intense, political discourse is in danger of being held hostage to extremist forms of populism. We call on politicians to ensure that such extremists do not dictate the tone of political debate. The Europe of the 20th century showed the tragedy of what happens when extremist groups are allowed set the agenda and take control. We urge all those in the home countries of the migrants to work for peace and justice in their own countries that all their citizens may find a safe and secure home for their families.
Support those who are helping to make things better
We commend the courageous efforts of so many Episcopal Conferences, church groups and NGOs in Europe who have made the practical service of refugees and migrants, and advocacy on their behalf, a high priority. As Jesuits, we especially thank the Jesuit Refugee Service, the SJM (Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes) in Spain and other Jesuit organizations for all the work they do with such commitment and professionalism. As the Society of Jesus in Europe and the Middle East and in Africa-Madagascar we renew our dedication to the service of marginalized and poorest of the poor in our countries and commend migrants to the prayers of believers, and the care and concern of all people of good will.
Note: The Jesuit Provincials of Europe and the Middle East approved this statement at their annual meeting in Rome, October 17th-23rd 2013. The Jesuit Provincials of Africa and Madagascar approved it electronically.
Conference of European Jesuit Provincials
Declaration concerning Syria
Rome, Friday October 25th, 2013
We the Jesuit Provincials, as major superiors of the Society of Jesus in the Middle East and in Europe, warmly welcome the Holy Father's recent statement on Syria. With all his strength, he alerted international opinion to the Syrian tragedy and asked "all the parties in conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience and not close themselves in solely on their own interests" (Pope Francis - Angelus prayer - 1st September 2013). With him, we also declare that "never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake", but that the only way to peace is through the culture of encounter and the culture of dialogue.
Steps toward peace
Therefore, we rejoice that the threat of air attacks against Syria has ceased and we support the launching of the process which aims at the destruction of all chemical weapons found on Syrian soil. We welcome negotiations for a peace conference for Syria which have now begun and we urge that this peace process moves forward rapidly, courageously and firmly. We ask all parties in the conflict, as well as the international community,
- to urgently seek a cease-fire guaranteed by an international authority;
- to establish a road-map to prepare the meeting of all the parties in conflict;
- to convene the peace conference to reach a common agreement which safeguards the lives of the Syrian people.
Social and civil mobilization
At the same time, we call once again for mobilization of all civil and social agencies to help the Syrian people face one of the biggest humanitarian tragedies of our century. The care of refugees both within and outside the country (about one quarter of the population), the need for food, medicine and medical aid, freeing detainees and hostages, and the reopening of educational institutions, continue to be urgent needs..
Interests at play
We also wish to draw attention to the necessity of acknowledging and naming the real interests that are at play, both locally, regionally or internationally, and which, unfortunately, do not always correspond with the interests of the Syrian people. In particular, we call for a reflection on the consequences of the production and sale of arms; we call for the cessation of the delivery and the sale of arms to all parties in conflict.
With the wider international community, we would also like to urge the refusal of all support, whether diplomatic or military, for every party, which openly advocates any forms of violence, fanaticism or extremism. Respect for the dignity of the person as well as for human rights should constitute a criterion and a preliminary primary point of reference for all material aid.
Christian communities in Syria
Finally, we point particularly to the ill-treatment and victimisation of Christian communities living in Syria. Present in Syria since the beginning of the Christian era, these communities constitute an inseparable element of its social fabric and its cultural richness and they contribute actively to its development. Solutions advocating the exile or the elimination of these communities are unacceptable. We want to encourage those Christian communities and to assure them that they can play a valuable role in their societies through faithful witness to the Gospel: a gospel that calls for peace, justice, forgiveness, understanding and reconciliation.