Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva, spoke at a conference on Tuesday entitled “Migrants and Cities: New Partnerships to Manage Mobility”, organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Mons. Tomasi introduced his statement with figures illustrating how, “for the first time in human history, the density of population in urban areas surpasses the population in rural areas”. He said such demographic change could “turn much of the world into a global city”. The Archbishop outlined the positive effects of this trend, namely “the promise of economic progress, upward social mobility, greater access to jobs… improved education opportunities and healthcare”.
However, he did go on to illustrate the many challenges faced by migrants and their host cities. Mons. Tomasi expressed concern about the fact that “migrants have been relegated to confined areas”; he explained that “these areas function as a type of exclusive social “barrier”, a sort of enclave for the wealthy classes, who shelter themselves within walls of protection against the insecurity that comes from social inequalities”. This fragile situation led the Archbishop to call for “a rethinking of the relationship between the city and migrants… in terms of urban space… and their interactions with other social groups”.
Mons. Tomasi then turned to the positive role played by migrants, demonstrating how they “contribute to the economic and social development of host cities”. He pointed out that “their involvement in the social and civic life of the urban community facilitates their integration and allows them to give back to the host country what they have received”.
He called for all urban citizens to “interact and to become involved together in issues of common interest and develop interethnic, interreligious and intercultural activity”. Such interchange will, he hopes, lead to a “dynamic two-way integration process, required for the creation of a shared citizenship”.
He reminded those gathered at the conference that “migrants become the “living proof” of the quality of a democracy”. He observed that “policies supportive of migrants… offer an extraordinary occasion for reflection on the values on which a democracy is based”. In other words, such policies “constitute a unique opportunity to improve respect for human rights and the basic principles of civilization”.
Concluding his statement, Archbishop Tomasi quoted Pope Francis: “The multicultural character of society today… calls us to deepen and strengthen the values needed to guarantee peaceful coexistence between persons and cultures”.
(from Vatican Radio)…