A makeshift shelter of a displaced Yemeni family near Sana'a, Yemen. A makeshift shelter of a displaced Yemeni family near Sana'a, Yemen. 

Pope prays for those who are forced to flee their homes on World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Pope Francis on Sunday marked World Day of Migrants and Refugees during his Angelus prayer recalling the theme of this year's Message that is dedicated to Internally Displaced Persons.

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis on Sunday marked the World Day of Migrants and Refugees held each year on the last Sunday of September. Addressing the faithful gathered in the Vatican for the Sunday Angelus, he had special greetings for migrants and refugees in St. Peter's Square and said he is praying for them and for all those who assist them.

He also turned his attention to the bronze sculpture in the Square entitled "Angels Unawares" and explained that in this Message for the World Day this year he has highlighted the plight of Internally Displaced People whom, he said, "are forced to flee just like Jesus and his family. "   

The Caritas confederation of Catholic charities worldwide has joined Pope Francis in echoing the cry of the world’s internally displaced people (IDPs) for justice, dignified life and safe return home.   

Caritas Internationalis reiterated its call as the Catholic Church marks World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday, September 27.  Making use of the annual observance to draw attention to the often forgotten tragedy of internally displaced people (IDPs), it urged governments to provide unconditional access to basic services and a dignified and safe return home for all internally displaced people around the world.  

Pope’s call

The Catholic Church has designated the last Sunday of September as World Day of Migrants and Refugees. “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee” is the theme that Pope Francis chose for the 106th edition of the annual observance this year.  

In a message for the occasion in May, the Holy Father called for attention and new policies for the world’s growing number of internally displaced people (IDPs).  He said he embraced all who are suffering precariousness, abandonment, marginalization and rejection as a result of Covid-19.  

The cause of migrants and refugees has been a salient feature of the pontificate of the 83-year old pontiff. 

IDP’s cry for justice

Taking up the call of Pope Francis, Caritas Internationalis Secretary General, Aloysius John said, “On this special day, we want to echo their cry for justice by calling for immediate and timely action.”   He said that throughout the world, Caritas has been in constant and direct contact with those living the dramatic situation of being displaced in their own countries.  They are people left all on their own, deprived of conventional legal protection.

According to the Global Report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 45.7 million people were internally displaced as a result of conflict and disasters in 61 countries and territories around the world by the end of 2019.

John said, “This figure is the highest ever recorded.”  “But despite the growing numbers and the urgency, until now,” he pointed out, “the dramatic situation of the IDPs was not adequately addressed on an international level.”  

Refugees and IDP status

He explained that unlike refugees, who are granted international protection, IDPs don’t benefit from a high level of legal international protection, because they remain within the borders of their own countries.  

John said, “They are victims of undemocratic political systems and environmental disorder which leads to hunger, war and violence.” “They are among the most vulnerable people on the planet yet they are denied their basic right to live a dignified life."  

IDP children, especially young girls, and women, he said, are even more vulnerable and are often objects of exploitation, abuse and sexual violence.

Addressing root causes

Caritas Internationalis noted that many situations of internal displacement have become protracted because the root causes of forced displacement have not been addressed or remain unresolved, such as in the conflict situations of Syria, Colombia and Ukraine. 

People have also been internally displaced as a result of natural disasters and famines such as in Somalia, Burkina Faso, Mali and the Philippines, or due to climate change, where continuing conditions of insecurity prevent forcibly internally displaced people from returning home.

Governments, international community

“We cannot continue to close our eyes to this tragedy,” John said, urging “governments and the international community to take immediate action for internally displaced people.”

Caritas particularly called on them to ensure that internally displaced people have unconditional access to basic needs - such as food and water - and services, thus enabling them to live a dignified life, especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

It urged them to ensure a safe and dignified return to their homes for those who want and can return.  It also appealed for a “global ceasefire, in order to suspend the conflicts that are among the main causes that force internally displaced people to flee”.

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27 September 2020, 12:30