Posted On 2016-10-01 In Something to think about

Welcoming immigrants

A Chilean contribution to a discussion that often seems limited to Europe. By Fr. Hugo Tagle

The number of immigrants in Chile has increased by 123% in the last decade.  From Haiti alone, more than 20,000 immigrants arrived in six months, that is, 110 a day.  Chile’s foreign policy has become more flexible and open to the world, following the trend of developing countries and the call of the UN to welcome millions of displaced people throughout the world. This is a sign of openness that enriches our cultural heritage, giving it more colour and diversity. Chile, traditionally isolated by the Andes and the sea, is now becoming more open and receptive, which challenges our cultural parameters, forcing us to become more tolerant and learn about the cultural wealth of others.

On numerous occasions, Pope Francis has referred to the drama of millions of displaced people who are looking for better living conditions or are fleeing wars, hunger, persecution.  “Christian compassion – this ‘suffering with-passion'” [play on the Spanish word for compassion] –says the Pope “is expressed first of all in the commitment to obtain knowledge of the events that force people to leave their homeland, and, where necessary, to give voice to those who cannot manage to make their cry of distress and oppression heard.” In this way, Christians are called to become aware of so many brothers and sisters who are marked by wounds that affect their lives: violence, abuse of power, distance from family, traumatic events, having to flee their homes, uncertainty about the future.

Chile, like many parts of the Americas, is a land of immigrants, even those who say they are indigenous, were once immigrants.  The human vocation is a combination of moving and settling. We settle down with the idea of moving, only to take flight and throw ourselves into a new adventure.  Modernity is characterised by mobility.  It is an essential characteristic that is here to stay.  Everything has become flexible, unstable, mobile: our homes, work, social networks.  We are living in a “liquid” society, to use Zygmunt Bauman’s famous phrase. We have to accept the idea that this phenomenon will not decrease, but will increase with time.  The invitation is to take advantage of its uncountable benefits.  Contact with others enriches us. From dress to food, literature, art and music.  Migration is a gift that opens up new horizons for us, makes us more tolerant and expands our view and understanding of reality.

Most of the immigrants entering Chile are Christian, with an experience of faith that is both deep and new.  New music, dances, devotions, religious practices.  All of this, if integrated with wisdom and education, would make the Church richer, more diverse, multicultural and missionary.

Source: Vinculo Magazine, Chile, September 2016

Original: Spanish. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa

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