Remains of the shipwrecked fishing boat on the shores of Cutro, Calabria, Italy Remains of the shipwrecked fishing boat on the shores of Cutro, Calabria, Italy 

Christians and Muslims: migration challenges everyone's conscience

After the tragic shipwreck off the coast of Calabria, Christians and Muslims call for joint action to support those who decide to leave their country, because it is "a human fact" that "calls on everyone to take responsibility".

By Vatican News staff writer

A new mobilization between Christians and Muslims has begun because "the latest tragic shipwreck of a boat of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea calls everyone to take responsibility". This shared Islamic-Christian appeal is contained in a document entitled "Let us face the reality of migrants together", signed by believers of both confessions.

The migratory phenomenon, it says, as well as calling for solutions that "take into account the political, social, economic and environmental factors of the countries involved", is "first and foremost a human fact that questions everyone's conscience".

Christians and Muslims, therefore, "should feel particularly affected by this reality", since most of the migrants trying to arrive in Europe are believers of these two religions and the territories they cross "have a significant Christian or Muslim presence", while the places from which they embark "are mostly Muslim majority countries".

The appeal comes less than a week after more than sixty migrants died at sea in yet another terrible shipwreck. Just off the Italian coast in Calabria, an overcrowded fishing boat lost its battle against the rough winter seas and broke in half, leaving the almost 200 passengers in the water. Of these, dozens are still unaccounted for, while around sixty bodies were recovered throughout the night and the following day. 

Interreligious dialogue looks at migration

The interreligious document released this week explains how dialogue between Christians and Muslims in recent years has "understandably focused on issues such as peaceful coexistence, equal citizenship, and the prevention of religious violence", even going so far as to "publish shared documents, position papers and organize conferences".

Emigration, with its burden of suffering, deserves similar attention. Despite the many initiatives already undertaken by both individuals and institutions, "a joint action would contribute to deepening the reasons for Islamic-Christian friendship".

The document specifies that it is "not the immediate task of the religious authorities and the Christian and Muslim faithful to suggest technical solutions to the challenges that emigration entails"; they can however "intervene on both a humanitarian and cultural level, contributing to the debate on this issue in the light of the values enshrined in their traditions".

The text cites passages from the Document on Human Fraternity, signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyib on 4 February 2019, and Pope Francis' encyclical Fratelli tutti, to reiterate that believers are called to express human brotherhood; that migration is always an experience of uprooting; that people have the right to be enabled to stay in their own land; and that the flight of many is dictated by war, persecution, natural disasters, or the search for a better future for themselves or their families.

United against injustice and oppression

The appeal proposes, therefore, that to manage emigration, "it is necessary to act at every level, upstream and downstream at the same time: to work to try to remove the causes that generate it, thus limiting its scope, and at the same time to provide safe routes and adequate forms of reception and integration for people who decide to leave their own country".

Both Christians and Muslims, therefore, must make their own contribution, "committing themselves against the injustices and oppression that are often at the root of the decision to leave, opposing the nationalistic and selfish closures that prevent reception and condemning the unscrupulous action of human traffickers and smugglers who get rich on the skin of migrants".

Without wanting to "exclude or deny the contribution of people of other religious traditions and other convictions", the text concludes, the call for Islamic-Christian mobilization "aims to ensure that a spiritual and moral heritage partly shared between Christians and Muslims be put at the service of the good life of all".

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03 March 2023, 14:57