OFFICE FOR SOCIAL MINISTRY
“Faith assures us that in a mysterious way the Kingdom of God is already present here on earth.” (Pope Francis)
Pope Francis begins his message for the 2019 World Day for Migrants and Refugees with this vision from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Gaudium et Spes,” reminding us all that God’s kingdom is very much alive and present among us. Here in Hawaii, people speak of seeing signs of paradise on earth, in rainbows, sunsets and the majestic ocean. But the Kingdom of God is found in the goodwill of people helping people as One Ohana. We see Christians building the Kingdom in many ways, like the parish volunteers for Habitat for Humanity building homes with and for low income families; or the retirees from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Wahiawa helping other kupuna clean their public housing units to avoid eviction.
But, our Holy Father warns, there are many barriers to building the Kingdom: “Violent conflicts and all-out wars continue to tear humanity apart; injustices and discrimination follow one upon the other; economic and social imbalances on a local or global scale prove difficult to overcome. And above all it is the poorest of the poor and the most disadvantaged who pay the price.”
Today, military conflicts increase in Africa and the Middle East, gang violence spreads in Central America, and worldwide the disparity between the rich and the poor grows. All this contributes to the surging tsunamis of migrants and refugees reaching the shores in Europe and the borders within North America. Pope Francis says, “In this scenario, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion. In addition to the hardships that their condition entails, they are often looked down upon and considered the source of all society’s ills. … In fact, if it continues, anyone who does not fall within the accepted norms of physical, mental and social well-being is at risk of marginalization and exclusion.”
Children are still being separated from their parents on the U.S.-Mexico border and unaccompanied minors are packed into detention centers and denied basic humane conditions and legal aid. Pope Francis calls all Christians to respond. “For this reason, the presence of migrants and refugees — and of vulnerable people in general — is an invitation to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity.”
Here at home, we see pockets of marginalization among Micronesian migrant youth, homeless disabled by mental illness and rehabilitated former inmates struggling to make a new life. But if we care to look we can also see the Chuukese Catholic Community filling and distributing senior food boxes at St. John the Baptist Parish in Kalihi, HOPE Services Hawaii (an affiliate of the Catholic Church) reaching out to the homeless across the Big Island, St. Damien Parish in Molokai distributing backpacks full of nutritious food for hungry keiki, and Chaminade University volunteers helping mothers released from the Women’s Correctional Community Center reunite with their children.
Another way to “reach out to others in our midst” is to participate in “citizenship workshops.” This summer there will be one at St. Joseph Parish in Waipahu. These workshops give legal permanent residents the opportunity to expedite their application for citizenship, to protect their families and engage fully in the community civic life. This is a way to build the Kingdom for all.
That is why, as Pope Francis says, “It is not just about migrants. When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves.”
To read Pope Francis’ full 2019 World Day for Migrants and Refugees message, please go to www.migrants-refugees.va.
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