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Thursday, June 22, 2006


VATICAN CITY, JUN 22, 2006 (VIS) - Made public today was the final document of the twelfth plenary session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which was held in the Vatican from May 15 to 17 on the theme: "Migration and Itinerancy from and towards Islamic majority Countries."

  The text has been published in various languages, extracts from the English-language version are given below:

  "The phenomenon of human mobility," the text begins, "raises a number of problems, religious and spiritual, besides social, economic and political ones. When discussing 'migration and itinerancy from and towards Islamic majority countries,' the complexity, timeliness and importance of the topic are evident."

  With reference to "Muslim migrants in countries of Christian majority," the document affirms that "Catholics, in particular, are called to practice solidarity with Muslim immigrants, to be open to sharing with them and to know more about their culture and religion. At the same time they are to bear witness to their own Christian values, also in view of a new evangelization which of course respects freedom of conscience and religion."

  "In any case, while it is necessary to welcome Muslim immigrants with respect for their religious freedom, it is likewise indispensable for them to respect the cultural and religious identity of the host societies.

  "It was also deemed vital to distinguish between what the receiving societies can and cannot tolerate in Islamic culture, what can be respected or shared with regard to followers of other religions, and to have the possibility of giving indications in this regard also to policymakers, towards a proper formulation of civil legislation, with due respect for each one's competence."

  "Given the reaffirmed importance of the principle of reciprocity, confirmed by the Holy Father in his talk to the participants in the plenary session, it is thus necessary to move towards a distinction between the civil and the religious spheres also in Islamic countries. In any case, it is fundamental, in this context, to distinguish between the West and Christianity, because often Christian values no longer inspire the attitude, position or actions (also with regard to public opinion) in the so-called western world."

  Going on to consider the situation in some Islamic-majority countries, the text notes how "Christians and immigrant workers, in general, who are poor and without real contractual power, have great difficulty in having their human rights recognized. The latter, moreover, have very little possibility of having their cause respected before justice, because they can easily be punished or deported.

  "The Church is therefore called to help Christian migrants in those countries, as well as in the whole world, in a context of due respect for legality and an interest in the formulation of just legislations concerning human mobility and the legal protection of all those involved."

  Addressing the topic of the "solicitude of the Church in the various sectors of human mobility," the document stresses the need "to create bonds of friendship, in an atmosphere of respect for cultural and religious differences, also with people who think of going back to their place of origin, like migrants, or with foreign (international) students who will be the future leaders of their countries;" and the need to make a renewed commitment "to involve women in decision making, especially in issues affecting them, as well as in the work of convincing parents to provide girls with an education equivalent to that given to boys, which should obviously include ethical formation."

  The section on "schools and education" underlines how "it is important to assure education to the new generations, also because the school has a fundamental role to play in overcoming the conflict of ignorance and prejudices, and to have a correct and objective knowledge of the other's religion, with special attention to the freedom of conscience and religion."

  It is also "indispensable to work for a verification of textbooks, also regarding the presentation of history in relation to religions, which shapes one's own identity, and transmits an image of the other's religious identity."

  "Muslim parents and religious leaders must be helped to understand the righteous intentions of the western educational systems and the concrete consequences of their refusal of the education imparted in the schools of these systems within which their children live."

  The last section of the document is dedicated to "States and religious freedom:"

  "Since, very often, it is the State that gives 'form' to Islam in certain countries of Islamic majority, organizes its worship, interprets its spirit, transmits its heritage, thus giving the whole of society a globally Islamic character, the non-Muslims very often feel that they are second-class citizens. For Christian immigrants therefore the difficulty is even greater. It is therefore necessary to work hard everywhere so that what prevails would be a culture of 'living together' between host and immigrant populations, in a spirit of mutual civic understanding and respect for everyone's human rights. It is also necessary to search ways for reconciliation and of purifying memories. We must also become advocates in defense of religious freedom - our constant imperative - and of common good, and procure respect for minorities, which is an unquestionable sign of true civilization."

  Finally, consideration was given to "some causes of tension and conflict, ... with the hope that these situations would be resolved justly and quickly, also to prevent war, violence and terrorism.

  "It is in any case necessary," the text concludes, "to avoid the abusive use of religion to inculcate hatred for believers of other religions or for ideological and political reasons. It is therefore hoped that Muslim and Christian intellectuals, in the name of a common humanism and of their respective beliefs, would pose to themselves the dramatic questions linked to the use of violence, often still perpetrated in the name of their religion."
CON-SM/MUSLIMS:CHRISTIANS/...                    VIS 20060622 (980)

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