|Peter D. Sutherland
Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Migration and Development
Address to the
International Eucharistic Congress
A CONSTRUCTIVE ATTITUDE TO MIGRATION IS A MORAL ISSUE
I submit to you that the greatest challenge we face today is also our oldest one: How to live well together. It harkens back to the very essence of the ancient Greek concept of koinonia, which is at the heart of Christian theology. It harkens back too to the fundamental values of the dignity of man and the equality of man which are at the heart of Christianity. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the Sacrament of unity because by eating of the same cup and of the same bread we become one body in Christ. The Eucharist is the cause of unity and the spur to greater unity.
The challenge of living well together, of fostering intimate participation in a civic setting, has always been present. But it has been thrown into sharp relief in recent decades by the speed of change in our societies—especially, but not only, as a result of immigration. There are different degrees of this diversity. There are those immigrants who share the cultural heritage of the host nation in intra-European moves. Others, of course, do not.
Immigrants have long flocked to major urban centers, places like London, New York, and Paris. These cities have evolved to a greater or lesser extent institutions, mores, and narratives that foster integration. But in recent years, newcomers have made their way to communities with little or no historical experience of significant immigration. These cities and towns find themselves contending with diversity for the first time. Even melting pots like London face a degree of diversity that is unprecedented.
At the same time that immigration is throwing more people of different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds into close contact with one another, technology has enabled us all to live wholly separate lives—imprisoned by smart phones and iPads that feed us personalized programmes and often block out the community around us. Meanwhile, darker forces are also at work: political extremists and populists seek to appeal to our basest prejudices in order to propel themselves into power. This is evident in particular in some parts of Europe.
So just at the moment in history when centripetal forces—globalization, immigration—are bringing us all closer together and introducing unprecedented diversity into our communities, we also must contend with the tendency of centrifugal forces like political extremism that push us apart. This is both a threat and an opportunity.
The threat is obvious: divided communities, alienation, insecurity. The opportunity might be less apparent, but it is an extraordinary one: We have the chance to re-imagine and rebuild our communities. To do so, we need to reinvent the common space in our societies so that we can once again pursue common projects, show solidarity with one another, and restore faith in a shared future.
This brings me to the idea of koinonia. In its most basic form, of course, eucharistic koinonia refers to communion with one another in the one body of Christ.
But considered more broadly, koinonia—which appears nineteen times in the Greek New Testament—is a complex and rich Greek approach to building community. Put simply, it implies communion by intimate participation. English translations of the New Testament barely do it justice, invoking “fellowship,” sharing,” “participation,” and “contribution.” Koinonia is all of these things and more.
Koinonia creates bonds among neighbours as people share their joy and pains together, and are united by their common experiences and goals. Fellowship trumps individualism and creates a mutual bond, fulfilling the deeply human need for belonging and companionship.
Koinonia fosters sharing and generosity. It holds the idea of joint participation in something with someone, such as in a community or a team. Koinonia highlights a higher purpose that benefits the greater good. The term "enthusiasm" is connected to this meaning of koinonia, for it signifies “to be imbued with the Spirit of God in Us."
If you will allow me, I will share with you my thoughts on how society is being changed by immigration, how we are reacting, and what I believe we can do to bring our communities back into greater harmony. My most fundamental conclusion is that technology, globalization, and immigration are changing our societies so quickly that we must reconsider how we define who the “we” is in our communities. In other words redefine who “we” are. The two pre-requisites for achieving this are, first, to have a core set of fundamental values to guide us—as our Christian faith provides—while, second, to develop the means for newcomers to share their values with us. The universality of the Church also should provide it with a particular capacity to confront the nationalism that has disfigured our history particularly in Europe. Indeed in the secular world it is what the European integration process seeks to achieve.
Immigration, of course, is not the only challenge of our times. Among the grave crises we face are those of growing poverty and inequality, the fraying of faith, the rough and tumble of globalization.
Immigration is linked to each of these—in part because immigrants have become scapegoats for the problems created by these other social crises. More positively, the recent influx of immigrants also can be the catalyst that forces us to reorganize ourselves in a way that helps us address many of the major challenges of the 21st century.
And at the heart of our response must be the idea of reinventing the “we” in our societies, of building inclusive communities, and returning to the spirit of koinonia.
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The story of migration in the 21st century is, on one level, the sum total of millions of individual stories—of the efforts of men and women to re-imagine their lives. They are driven by poverty and conflict, by climate change and war. They seek to somehow rekindle the flame of hope that has flickered and died.
But there are also larger forces at play today, ones that are profoundly shaping how and when and where people move. There are the pernicious players in the migration game—the smugglers and traffickers who profit off the flesh of others. There are globalization and the technological revolutions that have knit our world ever so tightly together. And then there is perhaps the largest force of all—demographics.
Allow me to say a few words about this last point—but with a caveat. Demographic projections can be as harmful as they are helpful—and they can be spectacularly wrong. Even in the best, most stable of times, they are unreliable.
Let me give you just one example: In 1955, the UK projected that it’s population in 1993—nearly 40 years into the future—would be 53 million. The actual figure was 5 million more. The forecasters had it wrong because they had not anticipated the baby boom of the 1960’s. So for their 1965 projection, now knowing better, the assumption was made that by 2000 there would be a UK population of 75 million. But birth rates fell; the 2000 population was just 59 million.
If we were to focus on only one set of statistics, in fact, it might make sense to dwell on birth rates. In much of the West today, we have experienced a full generation of fertility rates below the population replacement rate of about 2.1 children per woman. The rates in several countries in southern and eastern Europe have dipped to nearly half the replacement rate—and those countries will see their populations shrink by as much as a quarter by 2050.
Overall in the European Union, the European Commission is now estimating that the working age population will start to shrink in 2013. By 2050—even assuming an influx of 50 million new immigrants between now and then—there will be 40 million fewer people in the EU workforce. In that same period, life expectancy is set to rise by 5 years. The impact on our social welfare systems will be massive, with the dependency ratio cut in half—from 4 workers for every retiree today, to just 2 by 2050. If you were, let us say, Germany and wanted to maintain the current social welfare structure and dependency ratio, you would likely have to welcome 3 million new immigrants. Every year. Between now and 2050.
Here is another example: This year, for the first time in history, the population of retirees in the US is rising faster than the working-age population. A decade ago, when the children of the baby boomers were coming into the labour force and the small crop of Depression babies was retiring, there were 10 new additions to the labor force for every new retiree. Ten years from now, those numbers will have flipped—there will be 10 new retirees for every new entrant into the labour force. A sea change like that has the potential to change almost everything about a society.
It is worth noting that the decline in birth rates is not unique to the West. In South Korea, the fertility rate is at 1.1, in Japan at 1.3, and in the city of Shanghai it has fallen below 1, touching 0.9. It appears that young people throughout the world are going on strike and not having children. It is worth considering why this is the case; I imagine it is because we have changed the social contract for the younger generations, and not for the better But we should leave that debate for another time.
Even assuming Western countries do their best to boost the working population through non-migration measures—increasing the workforce participation rates especially of women and minorities; raising the retirement age; promoting larger families—migration will certainly be part of the policy mix. Between now and 2020, the European Commission concludes that 100 million new job openings will occur in the EU—80 million of which will be positions created by the retirement of baby boomers. The number of new jobs in manufacturing will be very small. The vast majority of the positions will be either at the high or low end of the skill spectrum.
While Europe is shrinking, Africa is growing. You might have heard about what demographers call the “youth bulge,” which could lead to Africa’s population reaching 2 billion by 2050. But allow me to highlight a less well-known projection. If education systems in sub-Saharan Africa produce students at the global trend level, by 2050 there will be 500 million working-age sub-Saharan Africans with a secondary or higher education. Today, there are fewer than 100 million. It is worth considering where these well-educated individuals will look for work. By contrast, in Europe today there are 350 million working-age individuals, a number that will fall below 300 million in the next 40 years. This is a fantastically divided demographic world.
Why does all this matter? It implies, quite simply, that forces that are beyond any of us and any one government—and probably even of the combined efforts of many governments—will lead to the continued movement of people across borders for generations to come. I would argue this is a good thing—if managed well—for all involved. A great many people would disagree with me, and would desire to severely restrict or end immigration.
They should be careful what they wish for. On the most basic human level—and in the spirit of koinonia—I believe passionately that living well together with those who are different from us can and should strengthen our societies. It does not come naturally to us. But there are ways in which we can and must make our societies truly inclusive.
And if we fail to build inclusive communities, one day we might find ourselves looking for immigrants—only to discover that they are looking elsewhere. To Brazil and India, China and the emerging economies of Southeast Asia. Because even today, these new frontiers are attracting some of the most ambitious workers our world is producing, people with a higher education and people who simply work hard. They are heading to new El Dorados. And why not? Why should they come to a continent that demonizes and excludes them?
Put another way, our record on living well together is looking quite abysmal.
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In Europe and America, in Russia, South Africa, and South Asia, xenophobia and discrimination are in the ascendant, fuelled in no small part by reactions to immigration. Vicious hate crimes have scarred societies from Norway to France, where this Spring a serial killer targeted both Muslims and Jews—anyone who was different, anyone who was the “Other.” Extreme right-wing political forces have gained footholds in numerous parliaments and the winds of popular support are at their backs.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric has bled into mainstream political discourse. European leaders have forcefully declared that multiculturalism is dead. During this spring’s elections in France, politicians railed against—of all things—halal food. Marie Le Pen of the National Front demanded to know which restaurants in France serve it. President Sarkozy responded by pledging to protect French consumers from unknowingly eating it, took it off of school menus, and called for legislation requiring all meat labels to specify the slaughtering methods. Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party is informally part of the governing coalition, recently was charged with incitement to hatred against Muslims.
Such attacks on immigration might offer instant political gratification in some quarters, but their net result is to divide societies whose cohesion is already being seriously challenged by the persistent economic crisis. The anti-immigrant ground swell makes it that much harder for minorities and outsiders to access basic services like education, health care, housing, and employment.
And so our societies are cleaved. Communities grow further apart. Alienation trumps reconciliation and brotherhood. The chance for koinonia is lost.
A recent Ipsos MORI poll shows that more than 56% of Europeans believe “there are too many immigrants” in their countries. Over two-thirds felt this way in Belgium, Britain, Italy, and Spain, while majorities did so in Germany, France, and Hungary.
In response to the question “Would you say that immigration has generally had a positive or negative impact?” majorities in all European countries except for Sweden and Poland said the impact has been negative—with Belgium, Britain, Italy, and Spain again leading the way. As a whole, a shockingly low 17.5% of Europeans believed immigration has been positive.
The human toll of these negative attitudes is worth considering. Landlords refuse to rent houses to people of color. Immigrants are subjected to psychological and physical abuse. Employment is denied based on faith or ethnic origin. Police engage in racial profiling. Schools allow teachers to wear symbols of one religion, but not of another. A recent Eurobarometer report found that discrimination on ethnic grounds is considered by 61 percent of respondents to be the most widespread form, whereas 39 percent of respondents considered religious discrimination as prevalent across European countries.
The conditions for Muslims in Europe are especially distressing. The estimated 15-20 million Muslims in Europe are extraordinarily diverse, hailing from a variety of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries. Yet they hold one thing in common: negative stereotyping and persistent prejudice against them. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency is alarmed by the high levels of discrimination against Muslims, racially-motivated crimes, and public rallies with anti-Muslim messages.
Many Europeans now perceive Islam as a militant religion incompatible with European values. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that almost 60% of Europeans believe Muslims are "fanatical" and 50% believe they are "violent.” In response to the question "Which religion is most violent?" 90% of French say Islam, as do 87% of Spaniards, 79% of Germans and 75% of Britons. Meanwhile, in France, an Ifop (French Institute of Public Opinion) poll published by Le Monde showed that 42% of French citizens consider the presence of a Muslim community in their country to be “a threat” to their national identity. Only 20% of Germans and 30% of French believe that Islam is suitable for the Western world. Significantly, more than 80% of those surveyed in Germany, France, Denmark, Portugal and the Netherlands agree with the statement "that Muslims must adapt to our culture." All of this negativism will be increased by the appalling outrages such as that we have recently witnessed in Toulouse.
The stereotypes of Muslims could hardly be further from the truth. In fact, I would argue that democracy is highly valued across large sections of the Muslim world and amongst European Muslims—and what better proof of this could there be than the Arab spring? Liberty, fairness, equal rights, and democracy are the hallmarks of that movement. The most powerful anti-democratic forces in the Muslim world were the dictators who were too often backed by the democratic West. Most European Muslims do not “hate our way of life,” as the cultural warriors argue. Nor is religion the primary factor of identity for most of them. But, writes the social critic Jonathan Laurence, “The current atmosphere has enhanced a feeling of group stigmatization and a shared sense of injustice where previously few bonds existed. Yet despite the obvious dangers, the tide of restrictions shows little sign of receding. Their pursuit is too electorally rewarding—and too politically risky to oppose.” This is a path on which many politicians find rewards, but it is a slippery slope.
The blame for the growing chasm in our communities can be shared by many. Two recent reports—one in France, the other in Germany—struck a note of despair. In the suburbs of Paris, the isolation is so intense that the broader social norms cannot penetrate. “Secularism is barely present in daily experience, and it is barely perceived any longer as a means of emancipation, but rather as an external norm,” says the report by the Institut Montaigne. Its lead author concluded that engagement in Islam was a response to, not the cause of, the community’s seeming alienation. In Germany, a report by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung found that—after more than three generations of immigration—the goals of German lower schools and the attitudes of immigrant parents were often in conflict. Schools demanded and promoted independence and self-expression, while the parents did not see these characteristics as educational goals—rather the opposite, the study said.
Is this the result of these communities being denied opportunities in our societies, or is it somehow inherent in their natures? You can imagine where I stand in this debate.
But rather than waste our energies arguing over this, let us focus on who has the power to fix the problem. We do. The people in this room. The elected leaders of our societies, and the unelected leaders of our communities—be they priests or social activists or merely good neighbours.
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So, what can we do? I will return to that in a moment. But allow me, first, to tell you the story of how I became involved with migration and the UN.
In the winter of 2006, Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations, called to ask if I would serve as his Special Representative for Migration. I recall him making the point that as Director General of GATT and the World Trade Organisation I had been at the heart of economic globalization but the other side was the issue of the free movement of people and it was time to address this issue too.
A United Nations summit meeting on migration and development had been scheduled for September of that year, and the Secretary General was concerned that it was heading for disappointment. Until then, debates concerning migration at the UN tended towards fractious name calling; there were fears that not many countries would turn up for the so-called High Level Dialogue, and that those that did would use it merely to score political points.
So Kofi asked if I could spend the intervening months coaxing countries to participate—and to participate constructively. Our goal was to take the rancour out of the conversation about migration, and to encourage States to work in partnership in order to make migration work for our collective development goals. We wanted to shift the focus from fear to opportunity. And we wanted to have a debate that was longer than a bumper sticker.
I can tell you it was not the prettiest of tasks. There was skepticism in many quarters. The greatest opposition came from the United States during the Bush Administration. Apparently, the State Department was particularly upset by an idea that Kofi and I had floated—the creation of a Global Forum on Migration and Development.
We had posited the Forum as a States-led, informal, non-binding process that would allow countries from all over the world to share their experiences about how to make migration work for development. Such a forum would give governments’ timely exposure to promising policy ideas, as analyzed by the most relevant, qualified bodies from both inside and outside the United Nations system. It would allow governments to establish a common understanding—based on the best evidence—about the areas of migration policymaking that have the greatest potential to contribute to development. In addition, a forum would also offer an opportunity for governments to engage with stakeholders who have valuable knowledge and experience—including nongovernmental organizations, experts, migrant organizations and others.
Nonetheless, the powers that be then in Washington felt this was the seed of a World Migration Organization that would set down norms. So they fought passionately against the Global Forum.
The Americans were not the only skeptics, however. There was a general sense of wariness, among many States, of what might transpire in a global conversation on migration. At risk of oversimplifying, the picture looked something like this: Developed countries wanted to avoid a shrill dialogue in which they were berated for not signing the migrants rights convention; developing countries were afraid of being strong-armed into discussing issues of interest to the developed world, while seeing migrant rights tossed by the wayside.
But not far beneath the surface, there was a pent-up desire for a more functional international conversation about migration. Too many policymakers had spent too long in rooms in which migration was cast as something negative, a scourge. Clearly, countries wanted a space in which they could discuss migration in a more positive, practical, and collegial way. This is perhaps why—when time came for the High Level Dialogue in September 2006—over 130 countries showed up, roughly double expectations. And during those two days, hardly a shrill world was said. Quite the opposite.
At that gathering, the proposal the Secretary General and I had made for the creation of a Global Forum on Migration and Development received near-universal support. Eight months later, the first such Forum was organized in Brussels by the Government of Belgium, attracting over 150 countries. Four more Global Forums have been held since, with a similar level of participation and collegiality. And the United States is now an enthusiastic supporter.
I believe the same transformation of opinion can take place at the national and community level. I believe individuals, like States, want to be their better selves when it comes to confronting the challenge of immigration and diverse societies. But they need leadership to do so. Otherwise, the results can be dark indeed. The Church should play an important role in providing this leadership within the Catholic community in particular, but also more generally.
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So, if in these times of crisis, focusing on migration and development can help keep a steady keel in the realm of international relations, what can serve a similar role at national level?
For Example, a mainstream social critic has declared that Britain has become “too diverse.” To the contrary it is worth considering whether many have become—as individuals, as communities—too narrow and too closed-hearted.
With or without an economic crisis, the challenge of integrating immigrants should always be at the top of our national agendas. But history also tells us that economic downturns, and attendant declines in immigration, can produce an “integration dividend” for immigrants who are already in a country. Following the Great Depression in the United States, immigrants there were able to use a time of crisis and restrictions on new migrant flows to fully establish themselves.
Investments in the integration of immigrants, especially at a time when national tills are being emptied by bailouts and falling tax revenues, might not be popular. But they are more essential than ever. And, in making these investments, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by ideological debates that are essentially red herrings.
As I mentioned earlier, concern about immigration has crystallized around the question of whether multicultural policies have failed. Those who would like to bury such policies argue that we have sacrificed national identity and social cohesion at the altar of cultural correctness. Instead, they say, we should promote policies that favour assimilation.
So in much of Europe, as well as in Canada and Australia—where multicultural policies were born—the tide has shifted: Instead of a multicultural ethic of asking what we can do for immigrants, we are now asking what newcomers must do to fit in. Integration courses and exams for residency and citizenship—often with disturbingly subjective elements are proliferating throughout Europe. The urge to recognise and parade national identity is due, I believe to the pressures of globalization (which in itself is a good thing) and the threat of terrorism. And muscular monoculturalism has become a mainstream ideology. In Europe for example whilst it is fair to demand that immigrants respect and conform to our basic values relating to the dignity of the individual and their equality other differences should not be stamped out.
Integration is mostly discussed now as a burden that immigrants are meant to bare. They must learn the language, adopt our traditions, respect our laws. There is, of course, truth to this, but allow me to offer you a different way to think about the issue.
Integration should be about enabling those people who come to our country to become who they want to be—through education, through work, and through participating in our political and social institutions. This is, after all, the essence of our contemporary liberal democracies—they allow individuals to fully realize their potential. This should also be proclaimed by the Church. Our openness is also at the heart of our ability to compete in the 21st century; if we are recognized as a society in which people can realize their ambitions, then we will stand apart from most of the world and attract the best and brightest and, at the same time, practically proclaim the values in which we believe.
If we think about integration in this light, then the burden of responsibility becomes more evenly distributed. Yes, immigrants must make real efforts, as almost all do, to work hard and respect our laws. But we, too, must change, as individuals and as a society. We have to ensure that the playing field is level, that access to our schools, to public services, to employment, and to political representation are fair and equal for all members of our community. This demands of us to rethink our institutions, as well as our own attitudes about what it means to be Irish, British, French, German or Dutch.
And if we want to establish a litmus test for whether we are succeeding or failing in integrating immigrants it could be this: Will a young boy or girl born in Dublin today to an immigrant from Poland or China or Ghana have an equal chance as a native son or daughter to become Prime Minister? This is the standard that we must set and meet. (Speaking for my own country I would say that it would be much more likely here than in many other places such has been our experience in the migration of our own people).
If we can accomplish this, then social cohesion will grow. Not too long ago, one of the most enlightened American voices on immigration, the Most Rev. Nicholas Di Marzio, Archbishop of Brooklyn said these wise words: “Immigrants integrate only from a position of strength. When they are affirmed and accepted, when they are welcomed, then they understand their responsibility to become part and parcel of a culture which is open to them.”
In thinking about our future, we need to know what is not attainable. Cultural homogeneity is not possible—we should not be tilting at that windmill. This is not because of immigration alone but also because of the revolutions in communications, transportation, and commerce. Nor does it mean that our individual cultures will weaken—in fact, the internet and globalization are tools that can strengthen and spread cultures.
But it does mean that, in our local communities, we cannot expect any longer to live in splendid cultural isolation. The philosopher Anthony Appiah has these reassuring words to say about this: “Cultures are made of continuities and changes, and the identity of a society can survive through these changes. Societies without change are not authentic; they are just dead.”
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As we go forward, we have to rebalance multiculturalism with vigorous policies that draw all residents of our communities—newcomers and old-timers alike—into society. The parts of multicultural policy that we should protect are those that allow and encourage all citizens to express their cultural and religious identities as equals.
If I were to leave you with only one unifying thought on integration, it would be this: In thinking about our future, we should pour our energy into creating shared experiences: Simply put, we cannot expect people to integrate into our societies if we are all strangers to one another. Here again, we need to draw on the spirit of koinonia.
We have had a breakdown in the institutions that once brought citizens in the West together—church attendance has plummeted, labour union rolls have dwindled, military conscription is no longer the norm where it existed previously. Our media, meanwhile, have fragmented to the point where we inhabit our own individual media worlds—symbolized by the sight of people walking down streets imprisoned in their iPods. One neighbour watches al-Jazeera, the other the BBC or RTE—and they develop two very different, often dueling, views of the world. New technologies might unite people globally, but they risk dividing us locally.
The ethnic polarization in schools throughout much Europe, meanwhile, is dramatic. Where once school populations more or less represented the communities around them, now they tend to be polarized. Why should we care? The evidence shows us that greater segregation leads to lower employment, lower earnings, lower education participation. Different schools for different groups also usually leads to different quality—and so those who go to lesser schools have their prospects defined not by their own ambitions or skills, but by their ethnicity. Studies also have shown that when children do not mix at elementary level, it becomes more difficult for them to make friendships across racial divides as they get older. The resulting tribalization is bad for our societies. I know that this presents a challenge for the Catholic Church and many might not agree with me but schools must permit diversity rather than outlaw it.
So in thinking about creating shared experiences, we must start by looking at our schools (including denominational ones) —at their make-up, at their quality, and at their curriculum. All of these dimensions must be suited to a diverse society. We have schools in which minorities make up the majority of students—in parts of Berlin, minority representation exceeds 80 percent. In all of Germany, meanwhile, an astonishing 38 percent of all 0-6 year-olds are children of immigrants. Solving this might be the most vexing riddle we face, since it is tied to segregation in housing and to economic inequality, which is widening.
But there are parts of the school experience that we can shape more easily. Let me point to a few.
First, we should ensure access to schooling for all children as early as age three. Research tells us that perhaps the single most important factor in levelling the playing field for the children of newcomers is to provide language tuition at a very early age. Second, we need to make sure the curriculum, especially in social studies, reflects the diversity of our societies. Unless everyone has the same level of understanding about everyone else’s lives, we will not be able to get along. Third, we need to rethink how we teach civics and citizenship in our schools. We have to train children not only in how their societies are run, but also in how to think freely. Democrats are made, not born. Finally, we must eliminate any and all forms of bias in entry to higher education. Throughout much of the West, ethnic minorities are under-represented—and this under-representation is not the result of ability.
While schooling is the sine qua non of creating a cohesive society, politics is almost equally important. It is through politics that a society’s laws, norms, and traditions evolve; unless newcomers are drawn with relative speed into the political arena, our norms and traditions will not evolve to reflect today’s society—and newcomers will feel increasingly alienated. So it is vital that we find ways to give immigrants a political voice. Already, nine EU countries offer the vote in local elections to non-citizens. There also are more immediate ways as well to bring immigrants into the political process—political parties could, for instance, actively seek members from different ethnic communities.
But we should not underestimate how difficult this will be: Even in cities considered to be immigration success stories, political hurdles are hard to clear. Political incorporation will take a conscious effort on the part of immigrants as well; they will have to make a pro-active choice to become Irish or Italian or French. In particular they will have to respect the basic values embodied in our conception of human rights.
The third pillar of cohesion is the job market. There is nothing more subversive to a person’s sense of self-worth than long-term unemployment. Having too many newcomers on social security, meanwhile, is one of the main drivers of anti-immigrant sentiment. And, outside of school, the workplace is where social relationships across racial, religious, and ethnic boundaries are most likely to be formed. So we must invest heavily in ensuring fair and equal access to employment for immigrants and their families as soon after they arrive as possible.
Fourth, we must strive to ensure that, once we decide to welcome newcomers on a permanent basis, that we give them a clear path to citizenship. We should certainly expect them to meet a reasonable set of responsibilities in common with all other citizens before they are naturalized. But we should not ask them to clear hurdles that are either too subjective or biased.
There is much else we must consider as we move forward. One vexing issue is to be able to gauge the capacity of our societies to integrate immigrants, and if we are exceeding it with the current rate of migration flows. We must be smart in calibrating the two; otherwise, the speed of change will sow discontent throughout society. Also, we must not budge on the question of our laws—religious and cultural practices that infringe on our laws have no place in a liberal democracy. At the same time, we must continue to be relentless in enforcing anti-discrimination legislation.
As we move forward, we must make sure that we are thinking about all of society, not just about immigrants. We must emphasize—and invest in—what unites us. And while we must insist that all newcomers respect our laws and civic norms, we also must fiercely defend their right to express themselves.
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Immigration can be a disruptive force. It accentuates winners and losers. It generates unease over the unequal distribution of resources and places strains on communities, especially those with little experience in integrating newcomers. Worst of all, immigration is a political orphan—it has almost no champions among the political classes, whose members see it only as a losing issue. And so what we often get is a dialogue of the deaf between populists and migrant rights advocates. The moderate center is silent.
In this context, the greatest challenge our political and social leaders face—including so many right here in this room—is to create the possibility for grievances and desires to be heard, reflected upon, and acted on. “When tensions in society inevitably erupt, the state must protect free speech and encourage a robust debate: efforts to suppress people’s ability to voice their real fears and anxieties will only foment extremism,” concluded the Transatlantic Council on Migration in a recent report. Some countries—I am thinking in particular of Spain—have successfully woven antidiscrimination into their national identity and public rhetoric to their great credit. Such societies are better equipped to counteract anti-immigrant sentiment.
Our ultimate goal is to establish a national, social, and communal narrative in which all members of our societies can see themselves reflected. We need, in other words, to create a collective sense of “we” to unite our divided societies.
How do go about doing this?
First, in each of our countries, we need to articulate an inclusive national identity—for instance, by ensuring that the history books in our schools highlight the contributions of immigrants. National narratives should revolve around the idea of constantly “becoming,” as they do in Canada and the US, rather than on simply “being.” National identities that evolve in this way offer room to incorporate the ideas that newcomers introduce into our societies.
Equally, on an individual level, we must allow for the existence of multiple identities. Aiming for an exclusive brand of assimilation will backfire. Studies in Canada, France, and the Netherlands show that strong ethnic ties and national pride are not mutually exclusive: 47 percent of immigrants to France, for example, say they “feel French,” despite maintaining ties (and even citizenship) to their country of origin. Meanwhile, 90 percent of immigrants in France who say their ethnicity is an important aspect of their identity nonetheless also say that they “feel at home in France”—a fact that points to a robust new generation with “hyphenated” identities. And all those efforts to circumscribe religious and ethnic identity—banning minarets and burqas for instance—merely backfire. Studies show that “symbolic” ethnic ties become more salient precisely because they are restricted. Immigrants integrate most smoothly when they are able to combine their ethnic identity with a new national identity.
When cultural practices threaten to cross a line and violate basic principles, meanwhile, we should be careful not to react reflexively. Rather than use coercive means, our leaders should foster dialogue, create institutions through which groups can negotiate their differences, and encourage good practices.
Fourth, in integrating immigrants, we must all play our part—we must all participate in shaping the new “we.”
While we are right, meanwhile, to expect immigrants to act with a sense of civic responsibility toward their communities and to respect with values, we must equip them to do so. When we ask them to speak our language, for instance, we need to offer them language classes at reasonable cost and convenience. Ensuring that integration and naturalization processes are meaningful—asking immigrants to demonstrate their knowledge of host country language, civics, and values—must exist alongside the desire for applicants to succeed in meeting these requirements.
Finally, political leaders should stop interacting with people solely based on their ethnicity or religion—for instance, meeting with Muslim groups but not associations of shopkeepers. This invariably fosters the airing of grievances related to “differentness.” Instead, we should engage immigrants in their other contexts, as parts of other communities with which they identify.
Eratosthenes of Cyrene composed in his old age a philosophical treatise, of which only a few fragments remain. I would like to share one that is particularly relevant to our debate: “The author,” Eratosthenes writes, “rejects the principle of a twofold division of the human race between Greeks and Barbarians, and disapproves of the advice given to Alexander, that he treat all Greeks as friends and all Barbarians as enemies. It is better, he writes, to employ as a division criteria the qualities of virtue and dishonesty. Many Greeks are dishonest and many Barbarians enjoy a refined civilization, such as the people of India or the Aryans, or the Romans and the Carthaginians.” Likewise Christianity at its core rejects discrimination and inequality amongst different peoples. As recent Popes have repeatedly emphasized we should look at those with whom we differ with tolerance and respect.
For far too long, we have looked at migration with too much demagoguery and too little nuance. Rather than be accomplices to failure, we must strive to be partners in success.
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“The Mass,” as the catechism tells us, “is the source and summit of the Christian life.” It brings us deeper into our relationship with Christ, with the communion of saints, with his Church, and to a fuller understanding of his creation. For us as individuals the Mass offers us a pathway out of our isolation and our selfishness. We are opened not only to a new life in the face of mystery but also to a new understanding of our own experience and our situation as social beings.
Being in communion with the Catholic Church brings us into a community which is truly world-wide. A visit to Rome makes this vivid for us. We see it also weekly at Mass in many parishes in larger cities. For us as Catholics, a global outlook should be inescapable.
The movement of people across regions and continents began in the dawn of our history. So much of what we cherish as identity and want to defend is actually rooted in earlier dramas of migration: from pre-history, through Abraham, the rise of empires and nations, the story of the Americans and up to our own version of a globalizing world. If we see migration as a pressing contemporary difficulty, we do well to reflect on how it was for earlier generations. We need to consider both the short-term dangers and the longer-term benefits which have accrued to us.
For us today, the dangers seem more pressing. Economic imbalances, inequities between different societies, and the sense of enlargement they receive from modern communications, all trouble us. The devil in the detail of people smuggling, the abuse of migrants, and the local pressures on host populations and their scarce resources together pose stark injustices, as does the impoverishment of communities that lose their more able members to opportunities abroad.
Migration tests both our prejudices and our generosity at the individual level and the level of communities and nations. Regulating immigration has proved an unequal struggle for most governments—unintended consequences, hard cases, reviews, and repeated reforms make up the story. The paradox of local and global loyalties, our obligations to both stranger and friend stress test the integrity of our good will. The encounter of different faiths and cultures can strain tolerance. For men and women of today, the drama that everything is always changing can create profound levels of uncertainty and insecurity that reinforce defensiveness.
Inevitably, these large problems create sharp questions for leaders in societies and radical challenges to their capacities for leadership. We are a way short of clear thinking about migration.
A Eucharistic Congress is a moment of affirmation of the values in which we are grounded and to which we aspire. The inexhaustible resources of the Church can lend us the courage not to be dismayed by the scale of our global discontent. The Mass transforms our attitudes to our own contexts and gives each one the means to exercise the generosity and sacrifice of leadership in his or her individual life. A congress of Mass-goers is a major statement of faith and of fidelity. We remember that the voice of wisdom in the face of apparently cosmic questions, whether climate change, political freedoms, or migration, is rooted in what we already know: the teaching of the gospels and the teaching of the Church.
Disaggregated into its component elements, a problem like migration resolves itself into choices which are fundamentally moral in character, and not simply the preserve of specialists, economists, or sociologists, much though we have to learn from their research and guidance. We are not helpless, even if the direction of high national policy is not in our hands. Even if our daily work does not impinge on the problem of migration, the attitudes we show may well impinge on individual migrants and on our communities which have decisions to make about migration.
Pope John Paul II explains how this relationship of communion is qualitatively different: “Beyond human and natural bonds, already so close and so strong, there is discerned in the light of faith a new model of the unity of the human race, which must ultimately inspire our solidarity. This supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God, one God in three Persons, is what we Christians mean by the word communion.”