The migratory phenomenon is one of the most complex situations seen in recent years. We could say that it is a kind of pandemic that threatens life, breaks social coexistence and threatens personal fulfillment. Indeed, the consequences, and above all, the causes, are many and varied, although the economic factor is decisive and is what causes large mobilizations in the search for new opportunities for a better life.

In the first days of the year 2021, we have been surprised again by the caravans of migrants, approximately 9000 people, mainly from Honduras, including hundreds of underage children. This caravan was joined by people from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in smaller numbers. This indicates that something is very wrong in the Central American area. Governments are incapable of creating public policies and sustainable development; instead, there is permanent political instability and weakened democracy, and a generalized fear that causes serious damage to families and society: impoverishment, or economic hardship, lack of educational opportunities and labor, all of this makes people more vulnerable, as they live in conditions of exclusion, poverty, and suffering.

In addition, the crisis of the current pandemic or “health emergency” together with the existing migratory crisis calls into question the political reality of what exactly a “safe country” is. Likewise, the economic system or model influenced by the globalized world has generated an inhuman and uncontrolled gap that continues to distort reality itself.

The severity of economic crises, that is, state corruption that generates more poverty, violence, overexploitation of natural resources and other deficiencies, triggers this situation and make it almost impossible to appeal to justice and the common good. It contradicts the teachings of the Church. On the other hand, this structural crisis provides us with an occasion to address the issue of migration in depth.

This is a propitious time to evaluate, review, analyze the challenges, question and above all to avoid putting “makeup” on the situation, thee way that politicians tend to do. The challenges again lie in finding a solution to the problem and not just applying a patch or two. Furthermore, we need to reach international agreements that impact on the political and social spheres, so that the culture of peace is not threatened and that we do not endanger life itself.

The Church continues to walk with and to accompany the pain of so many people who are forced to migrate, and collectively we wish to make our efforts meaningful. Reflections on this process can be found in a statement from a CELAM meeting in 2016 entitled, Migration, refuge and human trafficking, in the Joint Declaration of the Bishops of the USA, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in 2014 called, The crisis of migrant children, and recently in the document of the SEDAC (Episcopal Secretariat of Central America), dated January 19, 2021.

However, Pope Francis gives us some clues on how to do something greater to prevent social and ecological deterioration. In this hour of discernment of the signs of the times, we need to achieve effective protection for the most vulnerable people and avoid the dramatic phenomenon of forced migration. At the ecclesial level, it is important to assume and prioritize responsibility with migrants in this Mission Project.  The Episcopal Conferences should consolidate an Episcopal Commission for human mobility, as an ecumenical commission so as not to improvise actions and avoid divisions in the project . Promote ecclesial congresses that address and respond to this problem, as well as the commitment to build reception houses or shelters. Parishes, especially those on the route of migrants, should guide “the social pastoral towards an integral human promotion.”

There are also some institutions that are monitoring social problems that include internal forced migration, a reality that has a hidden face but leaves great social consequences. Indeed, there are no real data or numbers to evaluate this harsh reality. The underlying and big question is, who defends the rights of migrants when they are violated and harassed by institutions such as the police and the military? We see this painful reality every day in the medial Migration measures are increasingly harsh and violent, directly affecting any humanitarian and protective attitude towards those who flee. Migrating in any case is exposing oneself to greater risks and even death.

In El Salvador, the Council on Forced Internal Displacement has been formed, which brings together several institutions dedicated to this same effort to guarantee the values ​​of life and an unconditional preferential option for the impoverished.

Finally, the migratory problem depends on everyone, it is a call for attention and conversion, and it is our great pastoral responsibility. As a synodal Church we must find adequate answers to each moment of our history to achieve the balance of society and authentic adequate conditions that favor the dignity of life and human rights.

Br. Anselmo Maliaño Téllez OFM
JPIC Office, El Salvador