Booklet Released by Franciscans International and Franciscan Network on Migration

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

The Franciscans recently published the findings of research on exodus caravans migrating to the United States from Central America. In collaboration with the Franciscan Network on Migration, Franciscans International released research data in a booklet called “New Migration Dynamics in Northern Central America, Mexico, and the United States – Central America Exodus Caravan, COVID-19 and Serious Human Rights Violations.”

The research combines a review of relevant literature and the testimony of migrants and workers at Franciscan shelters. According to a Feb. 24 announcement, the research starts with the 2018 and 2019 exodus caravans. The report bares new migratory trends, illustrates the risks faced by migrants and those working to support them, explores future opportunities, and identifies potential challenges. The report includes a section that examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrants.

Every year, more than 300,000 people attempt to reach the United States from countries in northern Central America, according to a recent email from FI. Driven from their homes by violence, extreme poverty, climate change, and other factors, they are forced to embark on a journey that is fraught with danger. Franciscan brothers and sisters are trying to protect migrants by providing assistance as well as by documenting stories of those who pass through their shelters, FI said in the email.

“It is wonderful to see how Franciscans International and the Franciscan Network on Migration have been able to collaborate in this effort to assist those facing the dangers of migration,” said Joseph Rozansky, OFM, president of the FI International Board of Directors. “Both organizations are responding to the needs of so many of our sisters and brothers, working to make people aware of this situation and seeking ways to respond to the crisis.”

The 50-page booklet, available in English and Spanish, can be obtained on the Franciscans International website. The publication consists of three chapters, a list of abbreviations and acronyms, and a section that draws conclusions.

A Spanish-language video launch of the report was distributed by Franciscans International last month to coincide with the announcement releasing the publication. As part of its efforts to inform the public and elicit support, FI last month sponsored an online discussion between Franciscans and other experts on migration.

Over the last year, Franciscans International has released several other publications – including, in November, “Tearing Down the Walls: Challenging Myths about Migration from a Human Rights Perspective,” and a booklet summarizing FI’s three decades of human rights and environmental advocacy.

Franciscans International, the non-profit, international non-governmental human rights organization established in 1989, works to bring grassroots voices in human rights advocacy action to the United Nations level. With a staff of professionals of diverse backgrounds, FI advocates at the U.N. for environmental justice and the protection of human dignity.

In 2019, FI held events in Rome, Geneva, and New York City to commemorate 30 years of involvement at the United Nations.

The event in New York included a meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General and a reception at Holy Name Province’s San Damiano Hall, located next to St. Francis Church on W. 31st Street. During the celebration, FI’s founding members, who played a significant role in the development of the organization, shared their stories  and fond memories.

The 30-year milestone marked FI’s official recognition as a non-governmental organization, or NGO, at the United Nations – a meaningful designation, according to guest speaker Helena Yánez Loza, deputy permanent representative of Ecuador to the U.N.

Franciscans International has been cited for best practices in drawing global attention to issues of concern, according to a member of the FI Board of Directors who recently wrote a reflection about his involvement.

“Flesh and spirit make documents and reports come alive,” Clark Berge, SSF, the departing Anglican Franciscan representative on the FI Board of Directors, said in an article published in the newsletter of the European Province of the Society of St. Francis.

“Franciscan brothers and sisters and our mission to make a difference in the world are at the heart of our attention,” added Berge, who served on the board from 2015 to 2021.

The members of FI’s International Board of Directors usually meet in person twice annually. Since last spring when the novel coronavirus spread around the world, they have been meeting through online video conferencing.

“Meeting via Zoom has provided the opportunity to meet a few more times than we normally would, making the Board work even more effectively,” said Joe, who lives in Chicago, Illinois, at the interprovincial post-novitiate formation house.

Information about FI’s initiatives can be found on its website, and news about current projects can be found on the Franciscans International Facebook page.

Jocelyn Thomas is the director of communications for Holy Name Province.