Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, chair of the Office for Refugee Policy of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, has issued the following message for World Migration Day: The Bishops of England and Wales have asked that Sunday 3 December 2000 be a day of Special Prayer for refugees and migrants. People leave their homes for many reasons and are called different names - refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced, economic migrants. As a Church, we lift up and esteem all those who are compelled to leave their countries and their cultures, regardless of the labels they are given. I believe that the phenomenon of forced displacement is not only a human rights issue, but it is also a violation of the divine and universal scheme of the Creator - that man created in His image leads a life of dignity and righteousness. As the Bishop responsible for refugees and migrants, I ask that we remember all displaced people in our prayers on this day. We are a long way from achieving the ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Human rights and fundamental freedoms are being challenged around the world. Even in Europe and in Britain the situation is far from perfect. In Europe, there is a worrying trend to erect barriers that make it more difficult for refugees to gain access to protection. Refugees are often vilified and ridiculed in public and in sections of the media, which can trigger an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion. The rights of asylum seekers and refugees are further put at risk by a narrow interpretation of legal instruments that are intended to protect them. In Britain, they suffer under the rigidity of the new support system and from a system increasingly geared towards deterrence and detention. In this Jubilee year 2000, Pope John Paul II has called for a 'culture of acceptance, joined with prudent and far-sighted laws and norms', in the face of injustice and discrimination against refugees and migrants (7 June). The Pope's 1988 letter on migration issues ('Pastor Bonus') asks us to 'ensure that Christian people acquire the awareness of the needs of migrants and refugees and to show them concrete solidarity'. The Special Day of Prayer gives us an opportunity to respond to this exhortation. Let us pray for a more protective, welcoming and caring Britain for everyone, especially refugees and migrants.
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