The United Nations is hosting a summit of world leaders to tackle global issues around refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.
The one day meeting at the UN headquarters in New York marks the
first time the General Assembly has called for a summit on this issue.
Organisers hope it will point the way towards a more responsible and
predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and
Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is heading the
Holy See delegation at the summit and he’s also speaking at a high-level
side event on the role of faith based organisations in supporting all
people on the move.
The event is sponsored by the Vatican’s Permanent
Observer mission to the UN, together with Caritas Internationalis and
the Geneva based International Catholic Migration Commission.
Mgr Vitillo says some 120 heads of state and other experts will be
attending the summit so the Holy See is taking this opportunity to
organize an event that will be focused on 'Responsibility and Solution
The Church and other faith groups, he notes, are often in the
forefront of responding to the needs of migrants and refugees, both in
the emergency phases, as well as in the search for long term solutions
for those who cannot return to their homes.
Mgr Vitillo, who is part of the Holy See delegation, points out that
Pope Francis has taken a vital global leadership role on this issue, in
words but also in deeds, by sponsoring refugee families in Vatican City
and challenging every Catholic parish and religious order to do the
The message of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, he adds, is that
all major global problems today cannot be solved by governments alone,
but require a “solidarity approach” with governments working together
alongside civil society and faith based structures.
Mgr Vitillo underlines the summit’s recognition that this is global
issue. While media attention has largely been focused on Europe, he
says, this meeting will show that it’s only a small part of problem,
with developing countries continuing to shoulder the greatest burden of
taking in refugees. He also hopes the summit will look at migrants and
refugees, not just as a problem, but as a necessity for many high income
countries and a source of cultural enrichment for all.
UN documents, Mgr Vitillo comments, are often seen as the lowest
common denominator in order to achieve consensus and many civil society
organisations are already disappointed with the document that's due to
be approved by heads of state.
Rather than being seen as an
end it itself, he says it should be seen as the beginning of a process
to get states to implement what they’ve signed up to, working with civil
society to monitor and evaluate solutions.
Another positive development he points to is the fact that refugees
fleeing from persecution were previously considered separately from
migrants, but this document talks about both, recognizing that other
factors like climate change, abject poverty, or long term displacement
force people to leave their homes. By looking at this as a holistic
problem, he concludes, “I hope some holistic solutions can flow from