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VATICAN – Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy”
Here is a Vatican translation of the Pope’s message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I noted that “at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3). God’s love is meant to reach out to each and every person. Those who welcome the Father’s embrace, for their part, become so many other open arms and embraces, enabling every person to feel loved like a child and “at home” as part of the one human family. God’s fatherly care extends to everyone, like the care of a shepherd for his flock, but it is particularly concerned for the needs of the sheep who are wounded, weary or ill. Jesus told us that the Father stoops to help those overcome by physical or moral poverty; the more serious their condition, the more powerfully is his divine mercy revealed.
In our time, migration is growing worldwide. Refugees and people fleeing from their homes challenge individuals and communities, and their traditional ways of life; at times they upset the cultural and social horizons which they encounter. Increasingly, the victims of violence and poverty, leaving their homelands, are exploited by human traffickers during their journey towards the dream of a better future. If they survive the abuses and hardships of the journey, they then have to face latent suspicions and fear. In the end, they frequently encounter a lack of clear and practical policies regulating the acceptance of migrants and providing for short or long term programmes of integration respectful of the rights and duties of all. Today, more than in the past, the Gospel of mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and points out way of responding which, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, find practical expression in works of spiritual and corporal mercy.
I have chosen as the theme of the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy. Migration movements are now a structural reality, and our primary issue must be to deal with the present emergency phase by providing programmes which address the causes of migration and the changes it entails, including its effect on the makeup of societies and peoples. The tragic stories of millions of men and women daily confront the international community as a result of the outbreak of unacceptable humanitarian crises in different parts of the world. Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck. Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost.
Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?
At this moment in human history, marked by great movements of migration, identity is not a secondary issue. Those who migrate are forced to change some of their most distinctive characteristics and, whether they like or not, even those who welcome them are also forced to change. How can we experience these changes not as obstacles to genuine development, rather as opportunities for genuine human, social and spiritual growth, a growth which respects and promotes those values ??which make us ever more humane and help us to live a balanced relationship with God, others and creation?
The presence of migrants and refugees seriously challenges the various societies which accept them. Those societies are faced with new situations which could create serious hardship unless they are suitably motivated, managed and regulated. How can we ensure that integration will become mutual enrichment, open up positive perspectives to communities, and prevent the danger of discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism or xenophobia?
Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself. Many institutions, associations, movements and groups, diocesan, national and international organizations are experiencing the wonder and joy of the feast of encounter, sharing and solidarity. They have heard the voice of Jesus Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20). Yet there continue to be debates about the conditions and limits to be set for the reception of migrants, not only on the level of national policies, but also in some parish communities whose traditional tranquillity seems to be threatened.
Faced with these issues, how can the Church fail to be inspired by the example and words of Jesus Christ? The answer of the Gospel is mercy.
In the first place, mercy is a gift of God the Father who is revealed in the Son. God’s mercy gives rise to joyful gratitude for the hope which opens up before us in the mystery of our redemption by Christ’s blood. Mercy nourishes and strengthens solidarity towards others as a necessary response to God’s gracious love, “which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). Each of us is responsible for his or her neighbour: we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. Concern for fostering good relationships with others and the ability to overcome prejudice and fear are essential ingredients for promoting the culture of encounter, in which we are not only prepared to give, but also to receive from others. Hospitality, in fact, grows from both giving and receiving.
From this perspective, it is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare. This is especially the case when they responsibly assume their obligations towards those who receive them, gratefully respecting the material and spiritual heritage of the host country, obeying its laws and helping with its needs. Migrations cannot be reduced merely to their political and legislative aspects, their economic implications and the concrete coexistence of various cultures in one territory. All these complement the defence and promotion of the human person, the culture of encounter, and the unity of peoples, where the Gospel of mercy inspires and encourages ways of renewing and transforming the whole of humanity.
The Church stands at the side of all who work to defend each person’s right to live with dignity, first and foremost by exercising the right not to emigrate and to contribute to the development of one’s country of origin. This process should include, from the outset, the need to assist the countries which migrants and refugees leave. This will demonstrate that solidarity, cooperation, international interdependence and the equitable distribution of the earth’s goods are essential for more decisive efforts, especially in areas where migration movements begin, to eliminate those imbalances which lead people, individually or collectively, to abandon their own natural and cultural environment. In any case, it is necessary to avert, if possible at the earliest stages, the flight of refugees and departures as a result of poverty, violence and persecution.
Public opinion also needs to be correctly formed, not least to prevent unwarranted fears and speculations detrimental to migrants.
No one can claim to be indifferent in the face of new forms of slavery imposed by criminal organizations which buy and sell men, women and children as forced labourers in construction, agriculture, fishing or in other markets. How many minors are still forced to fight in militias as child soldiers! How many people are victims of organ trafficking, forced begging and sexual exploitation! Today’s refugees are fleeing from these aberrant crimes, and they appeal to the Church and the human community to ensure that, in the outstretched hand of those who receive them, they can see the face of the Lord, “the Father of mercies and God of all consolation” (2 Cor 1:3).
Dear brothers and sisters, migrants and refugees! At the heart of the Gospel of mercy the encounter and acceptance by others are intertwined with the encounter and acceptance of God himself. Welcoming others means welcoming God in person! Do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope and joy of life born of your experience of God’s mercy, as manifested in the people you meet on your journey! I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of migrants and refugees, and to Saint Joseph, who experienced the bitterness of emigration to Egypt. To their intercession I also commend those who invest so much energy, time and resources to the pastoral and social care of migrants. To all I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, September 12, 2015,
Memorial of the Holy Name of Mary
Vatican on Pope’s greeting of Kim Davis: ‘It should not be considered a form of support’
France: “Thank you, Putin!” Solidarity protest praises intervention in Syria
SYRIA – NYT – A Look at the Army of Conquest, a Prominent Rebel Alliance in Syria
In the notoriously fluid Syrian conflict, a host of rebel groups are fighting the government and competing for resources, forming and dissolving tactical alliances but rarely making major gains. Against this fractured backdrop, though, a new name — the Army of Conquest — has emerged this year, first with victories on the battlefield and now as a target of Russian intervention.
What is it?
The Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic, is a loose alliance of armed rebel groups formed in March to fight the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. It is not a unified army; its member groups share resources and coordinate their efforts in battle, but they remain independent, and there is no overall military commander.
Who are its members?
The alliance consists of a number of mostly Islamist factions, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate; Ahrar al-Sham, another large group; and more moderate rebel factions that have received covert arms support from the intelligence services of the United States and its allies.
What are its aims?
Some of its fighters want to found an Islamist government in Syria, while others want a secular state. But they are united in opposing both the Assad government and the Islamic State, the jihadist group that holds large areas of Syria and Iraq and has declared a caliphate there.
What has the alliance accomplished?
By working together, the Army of Conquest has racked up victories over Mr. Assad’s forces this year, seizing Idlib, a provincial capital; the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour; and a number of other military positions, mostly in Idlib Province. More recently, it has challenged government forces in Latakia Province, the heartland of Mr. Assad’s Alawite sect and a stronghold of his supporters, posing the most serious threat to the government in that area since the civil war began in 2011. The alliance’s forces in Latakia were the targets of some of the Russian airstrikes on Thursday.
Video – Dead bodies of Syrian soldiers killed by the Army of Conquest in IDLIB – March 2015 –
Australian police say Sydney shooting ‘linked to terrorism’
Sydney (AFP) – Australian officials said on Saturday that a shooting in Sydney in which a civilian police employee was killed the previous day was terrorist related, identifying the gunman as a 15-year-old boy.
The boy shot a finance department worker at close range as the man left police headquarters in Parramatta in western Sydney on Friday afternoon and was then killed in an exchange of fire with police.
“We believe his actions were politically motivated and therefore linked to terrorism,” New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters.
Police have set up a “strikeforce” to investigate the incident but Scipione said they were a “long way” from establishing what exactly prompted the attack.
He said the teenager was of Iraqi-Kurdish background and had been born in Iran but was unknown to police.
New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird said he believed that the lives of others had been saved by the quick actions of those police at the scene.
“There’s no doubt that this tragedy will echo around the world, as people try and understand how someone so young could admit such a hideous crime,” Baird said.
Australia has stepped up its efforts in countering the risk of extremist attacks, lifting its terror threat alert to high in September last year, conducting several raids and enacting numerous national security laws.
In December 2014, Iranian-born self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis and two hostages were killed following a 17-hour siege at a central Sydney cafe.
“We cannot let actions such as this divide us. We cannot let hate overtake us,” Baird said.
“We have to come together, and I’m sure that’s what we’ll see from this city and state.”
Australian officials say Sydney police HQ shooting ‘linked to terrorism’
Australian police said on Saturday they believed the shooting of a police worker by a 15-year-old boy in Sydney the previous day was “linked to terrorism”, the latest in a series of attacks blamed on radicalized youth.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its battle against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since last year.
The teenager was shot dead by police on Friday afternoon after he gunned down, at close range, a police employee leaving the headquarters of the New South Wales Police, police and witnesses said.
Police said they had identified the gunman as coming from an Iraqi-Kurdish background, and having been born in Iran.
“We believe his actions were politically motivated and therefore linked to terrorism,” New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters.
The boy was previously unknown to police or counter-terrorism officials, he added.
The victim was named as Curtis Cheng, a 17-year veteran of the NSW Police, who worked in the finance department.
“There’s no doubt that this tragedy will echo around the world, as people try and understand how someone so young could admit such a hideous crime,” New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said.
In September, police shot dead a Melbourne teenager after he stabbed two counter terrorism officers, while in December, two hostages were killed when police stormed a central Sydney cafe to end a 17-hour siege.
On Friday, a 15-year-old British boy was sentenced to life in prison for inciting an attack on a World War One commemorative event in Australia from his bedroom in northern England.
The discovery of the boy’s actions sparked a massive police operation in Melbourne that led to the arrest of five teenagers there who were planning an Islamic State-inspired attack, authorities said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Australians not to vilify the Muslim community.
“This appears to have been an act of politically motivated violence, so, at this stage, it appears to have been an act of terrorism,” Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne.
“We must not vilify or blame the entire Muslim community for the actions of what is, in truth, a very, very small percentage of violent extremist individuals.”
Security authorities estimate at least 70 Australians have joined militant forces in the Middle East with another 100 or more Australian-based facilitators and supporters.
UN Watch: State Dept. left dumbstruck http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/when-the-us-bombs-a-hospital-state-dept-hypocrisy-on-israel/
Our spotlight on this hypocrisy got picked up quickly and was sent to AP correspondent Matt Lee.
At the next day’s daily State Department briefing in Washington, Lee pointedly asked it if were still Administration policy that, as they told Israel last year, “the suspicion that militants are operating nearby a site like this … does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of innocent civilians.”
Evidently startled by the question, deputy spokesperson Mark Toner –looking down and stumbling over his words, as you can see in this video — struggled desperately for several minutes yet failed to explain in any way the glaring inconsistency exposed by recent events.
(h/t Yenta Press)