Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Message of the 36th Theology Congress of the Asociación Teólogica Juan XXIII

Asociación Teólogica Juan XXIII (English translation by Rebel Girl)

From September 8th to 11th, 2016, we held the 36th Theology Congress which brought together people and groups from different continents, peoples, cultures, and religions to reflect on the subject "Migrants, refugees, and borders: From exclusion to hospitality." Social activists involved in the refugee camps and border areas participated in it, bringing their experiences. Representatives of oppressed and neglected peoples joined us. We had specialists in international relations, migratory processes, human trafficking, gender theory, as well as men and women theologians who gave critical analyses of the situation and offered liberating interpretations of the religious texts.

1. In the world, there are 200 million migrants, 60 million displaced persons -- 2 million of them refugees and 40 million internally displaced, and 4 million victims of trafficking. The most vulnerable people are the boys, girls, women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersex persons, submitted to all sorts of indignities: sexual harassment, physical assaults, human trafficking, organ trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, gender violence. They are nameless and faceless people without any recognized identity. They experience social, political, moral and legal solitude. They are denied dignity and the right to life, as is demonstrated by the thousands of people who have died in the legitimate attempt to cross borders.

 2. In Pope Francis' words, these people are considered "surplus population," product of the "throw-away culture" that makes us incapable of feeling compassion before the cries of others. They are victims of a system based on the Money God, of perverse capitalism, and Mafia-like capital accumulation. Those who benefit from this situation are a political, economic, patriarchal, colonial, racist and anti-environmental elite who set in motion three big businesses: security, the political economy of migration, and the management of people in movement.

 3. Despite the discrimination they suffer, immigrant, refugee and displaced women have shown a great capacity for resistance, resilience, and empowerment.

 4. The welcoming countries are mostly the countries of the south, while most of those in the north have closed and bolted their doors. They protect their borders with fences, concertina wire, police and military force, denying the right to asylum. They follow mistaken security policies, do not comply with international protocols and their own commitments, and don't demonstrate the will to be welcoming.

5. The lack of solidarity of the Northern governments contrasts with the solidarity shown by an important part of society that is adopting attitudes of hospitality, and with the work of the social movements, non-governmental organizations, and cooperating individuals, who are working together in the refugee camps and on the borders.

6. Pope Francis is adopting exemplary attitudes of accompaniment and welcome, at the same time as he is denouncing the hypocrisy of the European rulers and economic and financial powers. Addressing them during his visit to Lampedusa, he uttered the word "shame." He told the European parliamentarians that it was intolerable that the Mediterranean was becoming a vast cemetery and that those who arrive daily on our shores are being denied welcome, often dying in the attempt in the barges. To act this way is to deny their dignity and favor slave labor.

7. The pope's hospitable attitude contrasts with the insensitivity of an important sector of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy towards the tragedy of migrants and refugees, whose problems seem to be alien to them and not a priority on their pastoral agenda. In addition to insensitivity, there are bishops who, acting under a misuse of freedom of expression, adopt racist, xenophobic, exclusionary and inhospitable attitudes when they irresponsibly warn of the refugee "invasion", question whether all people who cross the border are "squeaky clean" and state that few are coming to Europe because they are being persecuted. One even said that the arrival of the refugees is the Trojan Horse of European societies and, specifically, the Spanish one, and that welcoming refugees could look very good, but "you have to know what's behind it."

These statements are made from legal impunity and the enjoyment of all kinds of privileges from the state -- educational, social, fiscal, economic, financial. Privileges that distance them from the Gospel as the liberating message of Jesus of Nazareth.

8. We want to energetically denounce such declarations that show a total absence of mercy and a lack of sense of hospitality. They are far from the hospitable message of the Bible which asks us to love migrants, not abuse or oppress them "because you were migrants in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 22:21) and they are contrary to the welcoming practice of Jesus of Nazareth, himself persecuted, migrant, and identified with migrants (Mt. 25:31-45).

9. In the name of the God of Life and Peace we condemn terrorism, in this case the terrorism that claims to be based on religious motives and kills in the name of God, causing the exodus of entire populations to flee the terror.

10. We demand that the Nations:
  • comply with international protocols in the matter of immigration, refuge, and displacement;
  • open safe routes that keep people from falling into the nets of the mafias;
  • not participate in the business of arms sales which are used to support terrorism and dictatorial governments;
  • fight institutional racism; deny legitimacy to corrupt and autocratic rulers;
  • support the humanitarian organizations that are working on the ground;
  • further development policies in the countries of origin;
  • fulfill their promises of refuge;
  • promote intercultural, interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue.

11. The Congress wants to express its solidarity with oppressed and neglected peoples like the Kurds, the Palestinians, and the Saharans, who are being denied their right to independence and subjected to all sorts of indignities. All of them have numerous migrants, refugees, and displaced persons.

12. We who have participated in this Theology Congress commit ourselves to:

  • fight against the ideology and the economic system that are causing the exclusion of millions of people;
  • denounce the systematic violation of the human rights of "people in movement" by the governments;
  • work for a different and more hospitable world to be possible;
  • follow the solidary practice of Jesus of Nazareth;
  • make a new theology of migration;
  • move from exclusion to hospitality.

In Madrid, September 11, 2016

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