Cardinal Trukson making a presentation at the International Migration Conference in Harare..JPGCardinal Peter Turkson making a presentation at an International Migration Conference organised by the Catholic University of Zimbabwe.

The issue of migrants is dear to the heart of Pope Francis, said Cardinal Peter Turkson in an address to delegates attending the International Migration Conference organized by the Catholic University of Zimbabwe at Cresta Lodge in Harare from 27-28 February 2018.

The Conference sought to understand international migration and its impact on Southern Africa. In his address, Cardinal Peter Turkson who is the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development,  said about 258 million people were living in a foreign country or forced to move by political or economic pressure. Cardinal Turkson said major concern was on the political, economic, humanitarian and environmental situation of the host country and emphasised that there was a positive side to migration as it brings not only pressure but development to the country where refugees go.

Cardinal Peter Turkson meets with Bishops of Zimbabwe.JPGCardinal Peter Turkson meets the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Marek Zalewski and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops. 

He challenged those who view migration negatively arguing that migration can actually facilitate peace.

“Migration is not only a cause of conflict but can facilitate peace through encounter with refugees. Migration can be a source of economic power in the host country as refugees bring skills and knowledge to the host country. Migration is not always a source of problems. The content of migration is what matters, who they are and what they bring,” said Cardinal Turkson.

The Cardinal stated that migration is a theological category that serves God’s purpose especially when focusing on the history of salvation. For the Cardinal integration of refugees leads to the salvation of the human family. He said the biblical incarnation can be presented as migration of Christ coming to live among humanity. Cardinal Turkson encouraged the Church and governments everywhere to integrate refugees and to offer hospitality and care to strangers.

“The Church is encouraged to see Christ in migrants. The issue of dealing with migrants has been with the Church since its beginning. As such, it has been regular for the church to release messages on the welfare of migrants to show solidarity with those displaced from their homes”, Cardinal Turkson said.

Cardinal Turkson explained that to be a refugee does not reduce one’s dignity but rather calls for its protection and recognition and challenged political leaders and governments in Africa to promote the spirit of coexistence in pursuit of the common good.

“When people migrate, the fundamentals of human dignity to not change, Politics needs to take this into consideration. No government bestows dignity on a person, it comes from creation. In society, government must promote and protect it. God in all places is the real host. The people of God are called to  open to other people. Right from the beginning God’s people were mixed. The human person deserves to be preserved and the human society deserves to be renewed,”  Cardinal Turkson said.

Cardinal Turkson encouraged governments and the church to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants in their systems and communities so as to preserve their human dignity. He called governments to develop policies that support the welfare of migrants and refugees.

Migration can be voluntary. However, the problem of migrants and refugees has been on the increase as a result of people being displaced from their homes due to conflict, internal strife, disasters and systematic violation of human rights by political leadership and governments. Most of those displaced or refugees lack access to health care, education, political and social security and employment in host countries making them more vulnerable and increasing their desperation.

The International Migration Conference was attended by people from different institutions of higher education from across the African continent and beyond, social workers, representatives from The  International Organisation for Migrants, government officials, bishops, priests and religious from different congregations and orders. The Conference dealt with different topics including conflict and forced migration, forced migration and asylum in South Africa; Social and Political challenges, migration management in Zimbabwe, the effects of social cohesion, demography and culture, gendered implications and the feminization of migration in Africa, Impact of migration on development; remittances versus brain drain, the global forum and the changing mood in migration, Protection challenges and working with international partners and the legal framework on migration among others.  According to The United Nations Department of Economic Social Affairs Population Division, the number of international migrants reached an estimated 258 million persons in 2017. During the period from 2000 to 2017, the total number of international migrants increased from 173 to 258 million persons, an increase of 85 million (49 per cent).

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