GUADALAJARA, Mexico — This past month, Julian Jagudilla, OFM, Edgardo Jara, OFM, Otto Perez from St. Camillus Parish and I joined 53 friars and Secular Franciscans for the Order’s annual international Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation course. Titled “Migration: Causes, Walls, and Franciscan Perspectives,” it presented the phenomenon of global migration in a holistic, multi-dimensional way. The course, organized by Jaime Campos, OFM, and Rufino Lim, OFM, of the Order’s JPIC Office in Rome, brought together experts in the field, human rights activists, and Franciscan scholars and ethicists to discuss contemporary issues concerning global migration, as well as its historical, social, and political dimensions.
Causes, Obstacles and Responses
The course was divided into three parts. The first focused on root causes of migration. Gerardo Cruz Gonzalez, from El Instituto Mexicano de Doctrina Social Cristiana (IMDOSOC), provided a comprehensive socio-political history of migration in the Americas, while Rafael Alonso Hernández López, the director of FM4 Paso Libre, a migrant shelter in Guadalajara, and Melissa Angélica Vértiz Hernández, of the Working Group on Migration Policy, presented on the contemporary drivers of migration, such as social and economic inequality, violence, poverty, and climate change.
The second part of the course focused on physical and symbolic barriers in the migration process. Tomás González Castillo, OFM, founder of La 72, one of the largest migrant shelters in Mexico, gave an overview of the legal and political hurdles that our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters face before, during, and after their migration journey. He shared stories of violence and human rights violations, while outlining the unjust policies and laws that perpetuate injustice for migrants and asylum seekers in Mexico. Fray Tomás discussed how various initiatives, such as the U.S.-backed Programa Frontera Sur, have created a militarized “border wall” that spans the entirety of Mexico and has caused a surge in violence and illegal activities, such as trafficking, extortion, and physical and sexual assault along migratory routes.
The last part of the course offered Franciscan perspectives and responses to migration. Ramón Marquez of La 72, ethicist Martin Carbajo, OFM, from the Pontifical University Antonianum, and Juan Rendón, OFM, of Fundación Franciscana Santo Tomás Moro in Colombia, reflected on migration through spiritual and theological lenses while mining Franciscan themes, such as minority, human dignity, and the common good. They also explored the various ways in which the Franciscan charism calls us to respond to global migration by standing in solidarity and fraternity with those experiencing marginalization, oppression, and injustice.
Insights into the Realities of Migration
In addition to hearing from experts in the field, the course offered participants time to engage in small group discussions. This enabled us to consider this burning issue in a critical manner while allowing us to get to know and learn from friars and Secular Franciscans from all over the world. For me, these moments were rich sources of insights into the realities and particular vulnerabilities experienced by migrants and the Franciscans serving them in countries such as El Salvador, Malta, Slovenia, Poland, Zambia, and the Holy Land.
I was glad to hear about the great work that Julian, Edgardo, and Otto have been doing at our Provincial ministry sites, such as St. Camillus and the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City. Additionally, I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to present on the work of Franciscans International on the issue of migration at the United Nations. The latter was especially important as Franciscans International has been actively monitoring the negotiations for the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
Meeting Franciscans (both religious and lay) who are committed to justice, peace, and the integrity of creation was perhaps the biggest gift of this course. While the news provided by media outlets often paints a stark image when it comes to migration, especially in our own country, I was heartened to learn about the amazing work of so many men and women who have dedicated themselves to defending the human rights and dignity of our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters.
As a student friar and as an intern for Franciscans International, the JPIC course gave me hope and emboldened my desire to ensure that justice remains an integral part of my Franciscan formation and vocation. Fray Martin reminded us “Franciscans join all of humanity and all of creation to celebrate together the joy of living, while actively preparing the new heavens and the new earth.” I believe it is this evangelical joy, coupled with our commitment to collaboratively build the kingdom here on earth, that will transform our world.
— Br. Christian is a post-novitiate friar who is spending one year interning with Franciscans International as the advocacy and outreach assistant.
- “FI Brings Franciscan Family Together Through Advocacy” – Nov. 22, 2017, HNP Today
- “Franciscans Stand with Immigrant Brothers and Sisters” – May 24, 2017, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Conference on Migration Held in NYC” – May 26, 2016, HNP Today