MANILA, Apr. 4, 2014—In his recent visit to the U.S., Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle emphasized the need for the Church to address the needs and address the plight of forced migrants and refugees in the present-day context.
“The Church must lead in viewing migrants and refugees beyond numbers and beyond categorization, towards a recovery of the full human dimension of their condition,” Tagle said in his address delivered before the Filipino-American community in Fordham University, the Jesuit University of New York, on March 28.
Fordham University conferred on Tagle the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa for “combining strong convictions with a moderate tone and an emphasis on dialogue rather than pronouncements” and “for his moral leadership, advocacy for the poor, and his many efforts on behalf of the Catholic Church.”
Tagle, who is a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People, discussed the problem of forced migration caused by different conflicts, hazards, and disasters in various parts of the globe.
According to him, there were 72 million forced migrants worldwide in 2012, 3.5 million of whom were stateless. At least 20,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean [Sea] in the past two decades trying to reach Italy, Malta, Spain, and Greece, Tagle added.
The Philippines alone deployed a total of 1,802,031 overseas workers in 2012, a sharp increase as compared to 1975 when only 36,035 Filipinos left the country to work abroad, according to the 2013 Country Migration Report (CMR) of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Tagle noted the need to perceive the issue of forced migration in a more humanitarian context.
“I thought I would risk boring you by giving you the data. It is staggering,” the Filipino cardinal said. “We’re talking of millions of (forcibly) displaced people. The figures cited are not just numbers. They are human beings with faces, lives, stories, destinies.”
“While addressing the causes of forced migration is necessary, we need a fresh perspective on the protection of forced migrants by looking at the human consequences” along with its social costs [and] the wounds it inflicts on displaced families, he said.
Understanding the plight of forced migrants may be done through “assessing the perils and risks that drove them away from home, as well as the consequences, that they faced during their flight from those risks.”
“The migrant, especially the forced migrant, is a traveler, is a person on a journey—tired, thirsty, weary, fearful,” Tagle said. “We can help transform their human story from that of a horror story… into one of warm welcome, genuine caring, and the experience of belonging.”
For calamity victims
Joseph McShane, S.J., Fordham University president, lauded Tagle as a “man whose life is marked by competence, conscience, compassion, and deep commitment to the cause of the poor.”
“You have lived your life as an example of the very best that Jesuit education seeks to produce,” McShane said. “Although this is your first visit to Fordham, we feel that you are a part of our family and have been so for a very long time.”
During the ceremony, members of Fordham University’s Philippine-American Club presented to Tagle a check worth $5,000 in support of Caritas Manila’s relief work for the victims of Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (international name: Haiyan) that battered Central Philippines last year.
In his remarks, Tagle noted that he accepted the award in behalf of the Filipino people, especially the victims of recent calamities who “have inspired the world with their lively faith and joyful hope.”
Tagle is the Board of Trustees chairman of Caritas Manila, the social services and development arm of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Jr., Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, and Consul General Mario De Leon, Jr. represented the Philippine government in the conferment ceremony.
The degree was conferred on the Filipino cardinal through a ceremony held at the Keating First Auditorium of Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus in Bronx, New York. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)