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We need to be careful how we see, judge and act regarding immigrants

Bishop Leahy - We need to be careful how we see, judge and act regarding immigrants 

Bishop urges candidates to be responsible in pre-election discourse

Sunday 19 May 2024:  There is a real risk of a mindset of distrust and distain taking hold against migrants in Irish society which flies in the face of Christian values, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has stated.

In a letter to parishes across the diocese for Pentecost Sunday - itself a celebration of “unity in diversity” – this weekend, Bishop Leahy said that this sentiment may deepen in the run-in to the June elections and urged all candidates to be considerate of this.

The miracle of Pentecost, Bishop Leahy explained, is that the Holy Spirit brings about unity, not conflict, out of variety and diversity. “Pentecost is, therefore, a great celebration of unity in diversity. Each of us is given a different gift but like various voices in a choir, together we form a harmony that sings God to the world. This should be a hallmark of our Christian community.”

Bishop Leahy said that the Catholic Church has been blessed in recent years with the arrival of our “new Irish”, in our parishes, religious orders and schools. On a wider society level, almost one in five people living in Ireland were not born here and, for the most part, are ordinary human beings like the rest of us, he said, making a significant contribution in workplaces and communities. 

But while polling has shown that the Irish public remains one of the most positive in the EU27 regarding their attitudes towards immigration, not everyone, Bishop Leahy said, is sensitive to the plight so many have come from, or the contribution they make.

“Of course, I recognise there are challenges. Local communities must be given the resources and infrastructures to ensure refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed and supported. Issues around asylum seekers and direct provision need urgent attention. But at a time when anti-immigration rhetoric is on the rise, we need be careful about how we see, judge and act regarding migrants.

“There is a temptation to blame the rise in migrants, and so to end up blaming migrants and asylum seekers themselves, for a series of woes that are besetting us, such as issues to do with hospital care, the question of homelessness and the cost of housing. We even sometimes hear people say, ‘they are stealing our jobs’. Some lament the strain on public services or in schools. With growing tensions and riots, rumblings of discontent and marches, as well as social media campaigns, a mindset regarding migrants can take hold resulting in distance from, distrust of and disdain for migrants.”

He said there is a “real risk that this will be deepened in the run up to our June elections as some potential public representatives might opportunistically stir and seek to capitalise on sentiment”.

“I would urge all candidates to act responsibly and with sensibility and sensitivity to the plight of people coming to our shores as they seek election. To do otherwise would not be in accord with our Christian values. We need to help each other resist a negative spirit regarding migrants in our conversations, our planning and our outlook.

“In this way, we will also avoid conflict situations that could become dangerous. Pope Francis, himself a model of a welcoming heart towards migrants and refugees, indicates to us that our calling as followers of Christ is to welcome and protect, promote and integrate refugees. We believe in unity in diversity.”