(World Migration Day is celebrated on 3rd December. Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue is the spokesperson for the Catholic Church in England and Wales on matters concerning refugees and asylum seekers.) Throughout the world, the phenomenon of forcibly displaced and uprooted persons, fleeing persecution and seeking protection, is a growing reality. War and civil conflict, human rights violations, famine and torture, cause many people to flee their country of origin, often risking their lives for a chance of a new life in a safe land. Most of these refugees remain as internally displaced, or are accommodated in poor neighbouring countries. Some, however, seek protection within European borders. In recent years many of those who have arrived on our shores have come from a variety of faith traditions. Too often, they have been met with xenophobic hostility and been subject to a range of abuses in their attempts to rebuild a new life. Sadly, in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11th 2001, some groups have been made to feel particularly vulnerable and unwelcome. Our Blessed Lord, Himself a forced migrant to the land of Egypt, calls upon us to love our neighbour without distinction. Indeed, in His public life, He made no distinction in His healing work. In following His example, the Church exhorts us to respond in a spirit of openness and inclusiveness to all peoples and all cultures. Our welcome as a Church must extend to those who feel alienated, marginalised and disenfranchised. Refugees, migrants and forcibly displaced people deserve that we honour the biblical values of welcoming the stranger and extend a warm hospitality to all of our brothers and sisters. The cultural diversity with which our nation is blessed, and which enables us to interact with people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, should be an enriching experience for us all. Increasing the understanding that Christians and members of other faith traditions have of the beliefs and practices of one another should serve not only to deepen our own faith, but should also increase our capacity to love our neighbour. As Christians, we must constantly seek to establish bonds of understanding, thereby enabling us to reach out to all who are in need. We must also be ready to recognise and to receive the abundant gifts of all members of our human family. I would like to conclude by reiterating Pope John Paul's message for World Migration Day 2002: "Pursue sincere dialogue with people of all faiths in the world of migration." Source: Diocese of Lancaster www.lancasterrcdiocese.org.uk/
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