The phenomenon of human migration is among the most complex and massive global crises of our time; it is the greatest cause of human suffering and the tragedies humanity is experiencing in our day.
It is a very complex phenomenon because it forces to the surface all the unresolved challenges faced by humanity in making this world more humane and just; it brings to the fore the urgency of creating genuine solidarity among all the countries and peoples worldwide. There is administrative and outright governmental corruption in various countries; social inequality; social injustice, plus a thousand forms of violence and death, epidemics, famine, intolerance, racism, and various other forms of discrimination, etc.
The number of people involved, the sheer size of the worldwide migration phenomenon, already transcends all borders, races, creeds, cultures, and ideologies. The migration and refugee crisis has become a part of daily life, creating the Dantesque dimensions of a living hell on earth. The crisis is subhuman and apocalyptic in the suffering it inflicts upon men, women, children, young people and the elderly, all of whom, for the greatest variety of reasons, were forced to leave their homelands to look for a better future abroad—to try to begin new lives in strange and foreign lands, many of which are nakedly hostile to the newcomers.
This phenomenon of mass migration affects all of us. All humanity is united in the good as well as implicated in the evil inherent in how the world responds to the crisis. Sadly, the search for and implementation of fundamental solutions to the crisis are postponed indefinitely: everyone, leaders and citizens alike, are wholly lethargic in their response to the worldwide tragedy—all of us simply prefer to avoid dealing with the problem.
Those who are the primary victims of this migration phenomenon are—for the most part—men and women on the fringes of society, suffering the shame of their position of being people who are unwanted. They are the products, the victims of what Pope Francis calls "the culture of discarding;” the throw-away culture; they are what he labeled "the disposable." They are men and women who have become impoverished because they are being denied all access to social services and social opportunities; they are simply "discarded" because they aren’t important players in the hyper-productive economic machinery that drives this globalized world.
The causes of this painful and massive migration phenomenon are many; they range from people’s desperate search for better economic conditions, to displacements under duress due to political or religious persecution, as well as other forms of violence which make remaining in their homeland impossible.
Examples of this phenomenon today are the huge masses of migrant and refugee populations that are making their way—often at the cost of risking their lives—from Africa to Europe; from Syria and Iraq to Europe, for example; and then there are people from around the entire world, including Latin America, trying to make it to the United States.
This complex, massive worldwide problem calls upon all of us to find solutions of equal magnitude and complexity: the crisis, first of all, calls for solutions in the countries of origin; and then for a strategic response to ameliorate the double suffering of those who have been uprooted from their countries of origin and then meet with hostility in new lands where they are decidedly unwelcome, even as they try to rebuild their broken lives. The countries that take in the greatest number of migrants must be able to call on the rest of the world for vital help in finding ways for the newcomers to integrate in their new homelands and build a new, dignified way of life.
Until today, this phenomenon—which is so dramatic, so tragic, so visible, causing so much pain and bringing about so much social upheaval and individual suffering—this phenomenon which calls for such an urgent response, has been met with lack of action, with indifference, with governments badly failing to coherently and dynamically making a response to the crisis a priority.
The primary causes of the crisis are neglected or ignored: bureaucratic inefficiency and administrative corruption; social injustice; inequality in the distribution of resources, goods, services and social opportunities. What’s more, the very factors that force so many millions to emigrate also turn destination countries into hubs of misery, even as they continue to regularly attract thousands upon thousands from all corners of the earth, each and every day.
Neither the current politicians in each country of departure of these large migratory masses—who are, so often, victims of massive corruption—nor the governments of the country where the migrants seek to make their new home, nor the international agencies and entities charged with care of the most vulnerable—such as the European Union, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—are succeeding in resolving the current migration phenomenon through adequate humanitarian means. Instead, war-mongering and the show of military might are on display.
It is urgent, therefore, that we find ways to restore to all those affected their dignity as people—not with welfare programs, but through solutions that promote and sustain human development.
It is also urgent that faith-based institutions representing the gamut of creeds and religions contribute to comforting the suffering migrants; let their service and prophetic mission set the tone for secular governments. Religious leaders must fearlessly and consistently denounce all the aspects of the migration crisis that undermine human dignity, that impede the ability of all men, women and children affected by the crisis to lead dignified lives, as individuals and communities. Sad to say, the opposite is true today, with so many religious leaders having become co-conspirators of silence, demonstrating a glaring indifference to the migrants and refugees.
We must create a world that serves as a great table of plenty at which all people have a seat, and where all are in solidarity, partaking in equal shares of the abundant life. This vital task should bring all of us together in unison and harmony. The failure to build a more humane global community, marked by solidarity, is a grave moral defeat, which should fill us with shame. So far, governments and civil society have done precious little—there is so much, so much more that we must do to bring comfort and healing to our migrant brothers and sisters from all around the world.