WASHINGTON (January 9, 2002) -- Heightened security concerns following last year's terrorist attacks should not "harden our hearts" to migrants, refugees, and immigrants, according to the nation's Catholic bishops, who have declared January 6 to 12 "National Migration Week."
"Called to One Table" is the theme selected for this year's NMW, drawing on the spirit that all people are "called to share in the same banquet of God's love," according to promotional materials.
"For many years, our country has not welcomed those who seek to come to our land, and we make life very difficult for immigrants who are already here," said Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Camden (NJ). "Now, in the face of our new concern for security we are tempted to barricade ourselves against newcomers, many of whom are fleeing the same evils we seek protection from. As understandable as our fear and anxiety may be, we must not allow it to harden our hearts."
National Migration Week, now in its 23rd year, was instituted by the Migration Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to raise awareness among Catholics of the plight of immigrants, refugees, and migrants. Among the national programs being sponsored as part of NMW 2002 are:
- National Day of Prayer for Immigrants and Refugees, which was celebrated Sunday with special prayers.
- National Migration Model Grant Projects provides small grants to Catholic parishes, schools, dioceses, campus ministry programs, and other organizations to assist in initiating new and creative approaches to creating welcoming communities for newcomers. Applications must be submitted to the USCCB by February 1.
- Arts and Letters Contest. Prizes will be awarded for the best original artwork and writing – either essay, poetry, personal narrative, song or short story – on the theme "Unity in Diversity," the title of a recent statement of the USCCB.
Bishop DiMarzio, who chaired the Committee at the time the promotional materials were distributed late last year, reminded Catholics that just as Americans turned to God as a source of safety and refuge in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, "Jesus also challenges us. The same safety and refuge we seek for ourselves, we are also called to share with all of God's children."