By Lydia O’Kane
"Migrants and refugees. Contributions and present challenges”.
That was the title of an event which took place at Vatican Radio on Wednesday on the eve of World Refugee Day.
The meeting, which was promoted by the Embassy of Argentina to the Holy See, brought together diplomats, as well as religious communities and NGO’s working in the field of migration.
Also taking part was Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States.
One of those participating at the gathering was Director of Advocacy at Caritas Internationalis, Martina Liebsch.
She is responsible for their campaign “Share the Journey”, which puts the spotlight firmly on the issue of migration. Speaking to Vatican Radio, she said that since the campaign started it has received a positive response, especially in the U.S.
Giving an example, she spoke of an American women and a Syrian refugee. This woman, she said, “listened to his story and then said to me, ‘I’ve always looked at migration through statistics and I saw the figures and I was afraid. Now, I have listened to a story and I have a completely other understanding or a changed understanding and I can see what is behind it’”.
Fear and Dialogue
Asked about how fear can best be tackled when people feel threatened by migrants coming into their countries, she said, “I think dialogue is definitely one element; I would not say it’s the only element. I think the other element is certainly that you need to give people… access to their rights and their services, so that they have a dignified life.”
Dr Liebsch also pointed out that another important element was to be clear about facts. For instance, she said, “specifically here in Europe to always be aware that there’s not a massive invasion in Europe (of migrants) but it’s in other parts of the world where people are much poorer”.
Coming back to the issue of dialogue, she stressed, it would be a good idea if people focused on “what are we afraid of, but also…what are migrants afraid of; both have fears.”
World Refugee Day
Speaking about the World Refugee Day, which is observed on June 20th, she noted that, “it is a way to remind people about forgotten crises, a reminder as well of all the internally displaced people, because that’s another reality…”