The Politics of Migration: a Total Eclipse of Faith by Ideology?
On the 25th February 2019 there was a panel discussion in the Alphonsian Academy, Rome, on “Faith and Ideology”. It is a vast question which embraces many forms of faith, many forms of ideology and the various forms of interaction between the two. This interaction, often conflictual in nature, manifests itself in the context of numerous concrete questions of our time: the environment, Islamic terrorism, nuclear rearmament and so forth. In this short piece we will consider how faith and ideology interact when faced with the question of migration.
There is a real danger that ideology, in its various forms, is in danger of producing a total eclipse of Christian faith on this question. To understand this metaphor we may think of the Christian faith as the Sun (the “light of the world”, in scriptural terms). This Sun sheds light on all human history, including the contemporary history of migration. It allows us to view this immensely complex question with faith, hope, charity, justice and truth. The metaphor of the total eclipse suggests that the light of the Sun is blocked out by the Moon, which intervenes between the Sun and the Earth. In terms of this metaphor, the Moon represents the various forms of ideology in vogue. By definition, ideology refuses to see the truth, imposing upon reality a reductive vision according to the interests and projects of interested parties. This means seeing migration as being only, or primarily, about danger, fear, threat, crime, degradation and invasion. Given the complex economic and political circumstances in many countries today, this reductive vision of migration is extremely seductive and attracts strong political support. When this support comes from people who consider themselves Christians, we are faced with a total eclipse of Christian faith by ideology.
How are people of faith to react in such circumstances? Certainly not with an alternative reductive ideology which denies the complexity and gravity of the migration question, and serves the political interests of other groupings. And not with a facile equation between faith and migration policies. The Bible and the Magisterium of the Church do not and cannot provide the correct, technical solution to this problem in any given country, at any given time. The task of discerning and realizing this solution belongs to the legitimate civil, juridical and political authorities involved. The ordinary Christian, who is also a citizen, must at least allow his or her faith to enlighten thought, judgment and conversation on this theme. The Bible and the Magisterium (e.g. Pio XII, Exsul Familia, 1952; Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, 2004) do, however, offer some guidance on how we should think about this question: these indications will be the object of study in further reflections of this kind.
P. Martin McKeever, CSsR