World Migrant Week is a week in which the church intensifies many activities to continue promoting the message of recognition of the rights of migrants with celebrations and actions such as Eucharist, conferences, courses, festivals, radio programs and live talks.
However, this year is different, as we are in a year of change and reality has hit us with a global pandemic. For impoverished countries, the social crisis has intensified, not only because of the deaths of our loved ones, but with massive unemployment, and overwhelming poverty in Honduran families.
Various social opinions pointed out from the first months that the health contingency would intensify social inequalities. For Honduras, after six months of crisis, it is part of the so-called new normal, since even with death as a dramatic context, with the lack of supplies, excessive corruption and political conflicts, we have seen that with desperation our brothers and sisters continue to leave the country in search of new opportunities that allow them to continue dreaming in the face of the terrible hopelessness that surrounds them. They continue to believe in their abilities and are committed to changing that reality that is imposed on their eyes with the strength of their hands.
The Pope tells us: “This is not the time to be forgotten. The crisis we are facing should not make us put aside so many other emergency situations that cause the suffering of many people” (Message from Urbi et Orbi, April 12, 2020).
Of course, we cannot forget the poor, the migrants and the displaced, those who return because the first world countries did not fulfill their responsibilities during this pandemic. Only during this crisis in the first months there were more than 10000 Hondurans deported, not counting Haitians and Cuban Africans stranded on the Honduran border without a response from the government to the terror and paranoia of fear of the Covid-19 disease.
We cannot forget that displacement is an emergency but regulated to become invisible from the collective consciousness. We cannot assume that it is a problem only for those who care for or deal with migrants. We cannot forget that the country follows its course and agenda, without involving the people as a fundamental actor in this dramatic scenario. This challenges us to look more from the heart.
Jesus is present in each one of them, forced, as in Herod’s time, to flee for his salvation. We are called to recognize in their faces the face of Christ, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, a stranger and a prisoner, who challenges us (cf. Mt 25,31-46).
“Forced to flee,” that is this week’s motto, a harsh phrase that comes out of faith, hope and also injustice. The Pope encourages us to put ourselves at the service of those who flee; encourages us to meet the internally displaced, who are close by. It is the neighbor who is close to us today, the woman who takes care of us in her business, the child who with difficulties enters the classroom online, the friend who asks us for a loan, the man who no longer shines shoes in the park, the vegetable lady that pays double for transportation, and the thousands of people who are so close to us today and who will be the ones who flee because there are no other alternatives after having tried everything to survive and stay.
We are called to continue responding to the four verbs promoted in the message for this day in 2018 and now Pope Francis has asked us to go further in this call, like a pastor who at this time of the night goes out to find us to give us the route to meet this Jesus who is nearby, who is a neighbor, family, friend, a stranger who has met us.
As Christians, we can respond to that encounter by knowing it, understanding its reality and history. Daring to dialogue in the conflictive contexts that our brothers and sisters live will allow us to know them and thus possibly from our also limited stories to love them. Because we are used to talking about these bitter realities, but rarely do we give a voice to these victims of injustice and impoverishment, to listen and let them speak to us.
To grow you have to share. From Franciscan spirituality we recognize this call, as our principle of the “common good,” not to favor individualism, but personal growth. Only then can we grow, as brothers and sisters in society. We need to share ourselves with the other, contribute time, dialogue, life, let ourselves go and go in search of those fleeing violence, poverty and inequality, and thus offer our hearts to the displaced and the migrant. The danger of the new normal is living always under lock and key (P. Mello, 2020). We need to get out of ourselves, out of our houses of fear, to grow and give ourselves the gift of being brothers and sisters with others.
Become a neighbor to serve. It is essential to be a neighbor in our life of faith, but that does not mean that it is easy for us, since putting ourselves in the role of neighbor, the one that is closest to the other, is not so common. We remain in austere service, of giving but not giving ourselves, doing but giving ourselves. We do not connect with the other because we are far away when we serve, from the peak of voluntarism and offering our capacities, but we do not let our hearts flow in what we give. Let us serve fraternally, making ourselves equals and brothers to those close to us. Let us join forces with the one who suffers to open ourselves to the mystery of Jesus the Samaritan (this phrase came from the paragraph below).
To reconcile, you need to listen. One of the important behavioral manifestations of respect is listening, and through this dynamic of active listening, we let the displaced be and do not impose ourselves as advisers. We get involved as brothers and sisters embracing the reality of those who are marginalized from a quality of life due to injustice.
As Franciscans, this week he calls us not to shut ourselves in or to evade or flee from those who need us. At this time that our families are changing in their way of life, and we return to a domestic church, that we do not find ourselves in this situation of running away is a privilege. However, for our future generations, what awaits them? And for us in a few decades, what is the near future?
If the outlook is bleak, let us come together to the restorative encounter of being brothers and sisters with those who have forcibly left our homeland. Walking together, the companion and the migrant see the horizon, “the new sky and the new earth”, which makes them dream with their feet solidly planted in reality, the driving force, and the hope of finding a place where you can continue to grow in your humanity, celebrating life and praising the merciful presence of God present in your life.