Migration as a Shock to Established Systems

by | Nov 22, 2017 | Systemic change

I recently revisited a .famvin  post “Without Migration there is no Christianity.” It set me thinking about the changes brought about by migration.

I am by no means an expert in studies of the impact of migration on a country. However, I am certainly aware of the fears of many around the world have about its impact on the “system” in which they currently live.

In America, we celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving rooted in the tradition of earliest migrants to this land. However, I also wonder how the descendants of the once thriving native population view the shock to their system was the years passed. There is also the question of whether there would be such a country as the United States if the original inhabitants had been able to effectively keep out successive waves of immigrants. Lots of questions!

But here’s a thought from the earlier post… “Everything must be rethought in terms of migration. Without migration there is no Christianity.”

Dr. Peter Phan offered this thought in a presentation “Deus Migrator/God the Migrator: Migration of Theology and the Theology of Migration”

Fr. Greg former Superior General the Vincentians introduced the theme for our Vincentian Family jubilee year, “Welcome the Stranger,” saying that all branches of the Vincentian Family will look to see how we welcome strangers: immigrants, refugees, and others. He asked, “What are we doing to welcome the stranger?”

One thing we might do educate ourselves to see the current politically charged issues in broader perspective.

“Since World War II, migration has become a phenomenon of unimaginable complexity,” Dr. Phan says. At the end of 2015, there were 65.3 million displaced people, refugees, increased from 59.5 million just 12 months earlier. “That’s 24 refugees per minute,” he added.

So when asked what the topic of the next Vatican Council might be, he answers “migration.” It is a dramatic phenomenon we cannot ignore, he continued. The United Nations and others study it; Pope Francis says “welcome”; yet anti-immigrant sentiment rises globally.

There are three points to consider, Phan says, that we must not ignore:

  • The American Catholic Church does not exist except for migrants.
  • Christianity as such itself would not exist without migration.
  • Without migration, there is no God—God is the primordial migrant, on the move, not static.

Phan elaborated on each of these points. The Church here must be seen as a migrant, he said, if we are to understand our own faith position. It was migration that brought Catholics into the New World, migration that increased their numbers. “The American Catholic Church would not exist except for migrants. We must make people aware of this.

Those who attended his presentation have high praise. You can judge for yourself by viewing the video recording of his presentation.

He is the first non-Anglo to be elected President of the Catholic Theological Society of America. In 2010 he was given the John Courtney Murray Award, the highest honor of the Catholic Theological Society of America, in recognition for outstanding and distinguished achievement in theology.

For very brief but enlightening overview of the 6 major phases of migration over the course of history visit the summary from the June 2016 Assembly by  Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director AUSCP:


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