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Seminar on migrants and refugees, creating hospitality

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MADRID, Spain.
With the title "Migrants and refugees in the current European context. From the problem to opportunity," the Council for Culture of the Teresian Association organized a seminar of study and reflection, held at Padre Poveda “Colegio Mayor” in Madrid. NGO InteRed, the Castroverde Foundation, and the social area of The Teresian Association in Spain collaborated in the program.

Manuela Aguilera, President of the Council for Culture, an organization that studies and interprets cultures and those signs that characterize our time and express the needs and aspirations of people today, said at the opening of the event, that this seminar wanted to be "an opportunity to reflect on and commit to generating a culture of hospitality.   This is nothing more than believing that it is possible and necessary to live together, even when the other is a carrier of other cultures, gods, and traditions in an open and welcoming city that allows people to understand each other as relational beings, interdependent and connected.”

Beyond words

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I will begin this brief chronicle with the words used by the last speaker, Pepa Torres, theologian and social educator, who called the seminar a learning "face-to-face"; with a holistic pedagogy that has not only touched heads, opened minds, but has reached to the heart, the emotional intelligence. And I would add that poetry, dance, and visual art were also present.

It seems to me that this seminar was a great success. Conferences and round tables held by experts in the field, with data and knowledge of the subject, who spoke with competence and passion, not only for having studied academically, but also for having suffered in the first line through their field work. I think that this combination of languages ​​and these multiple intelligences, applied to the issue of migrants and refugees, contributed to the success of the meeting.

This was the experience of the almost one hundred people that met on the cold morning of Saturday, March 25, at Padre Poveda Colegio Mayor that opened its doors and rooms with great hospitality.

It is difficult to summarize everything we heard and felt on this weekend of March 25-26 We participated in a total of five talks, two round tables and two poetic shows. This shows the tight schedule. The papers and videos will be available for reflection. I am going to rescue from the memory of my heart some of the affirmations that struck me the most.

Two of the lecturers addressed the issue of the current migration context and its challenges, helping to broaden the view and to put human faces and their drama into the data and impressive statistics they offered. Alberto Ares, Doctor in International Migration and researcher at the Institute on Migration at Comillas Pontifical University, spoke on the topic: "Migrants and displaced persons. Challenges. Causes that promote global migration." Jaime Pons, Coordinator of the Jesuit Service to migrants, addressed the topic: "Refugees: from exclusion to hospitality."

What can we do in the face of this problem?

Four words loaded with meaning were stressed: Welcome, which means opening our house, each one can contextualize the terms of opening and home; Incidence, that is, collaborate in the transformation of structures; Awareness, which is very important to work towards the consolidation of responsible citizenship; and, last and not the least important, Cooperation, to address the causes in their origin.

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Laura Vaccaro, Chief Prosecutor for Children's in Caltanisetta (Sicily), focused our attention on "Migrant Minors and Refugees in Europe." This Italian magistrate, a woman who analyzes with her head and who listens and judges with her heart, told us about the children she receives in her office, on the frontier line a few miles off the coast of Libya. They have faces, names, and feelings and she would like to think that they can have a future. Her talk struck the conscience of Europe and of those who want to forge their political future on the fear of citizenship. She spoke of missing children once they arrive in our territory, because receiving them has become a crime trade: organ trafficking, sexual exploitation, using them as slaves at work ... all in the face of total impunity.

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Itziar Ruiz-Giménez, PhD in International Relations and Professor of this subject at Universidad Autónoma in Madrid, was also bright and lucid as she spoke on "Gender and Migrations." Not only did she open our eyes, but she demystified the prevailing media discourses that make us naively look at some people and with distorted intentions at those who support them.

She helped us look with new eyes at the migrant and refugee women, who are not only victims but political actors with a high degree of resilience and denunciation. And she unraveled the three big businesses that benefit from the asylum policy:

  • The business of security. There is no money to welcome the refugees, but there is money to invest in industries that prevent them from entering.
  • The business of the international criminal networks for the displacement of these refugees through unsafe routes.
  • The business in the destination countries with all types of human rights abuses and violations.

Politicians no longer must guarantee social rights and welfare, but security against what they define as a threat.

And finally, the closing conference was given by Pepa Torres, theologian and sociologist who put the finishing touches on the seminar. She participated in it from the beginning, and her presentation was a splendid collection of everything presented by the other participants. She made a precious reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan: Either we live as neighbors or we cease to be human. She encouraged us to be the new Samaritans of today: people and groups of experts, networks, and welcoming.

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Round Tables

This rich experience was completed with two roundtables that opened the great theme that called us together: one on Saturday afternoon entitled Integration, Inclusion and Rights, dealing with: "Prejudices against migrants," presented by Sergio Barciela, person responsible for Migration Cáritas España; “Deportations,” by Santiago Yerga, lawyer, United Nations Legal Coordinator; "Victims of trafficking", presented by Mª del Mar García Navarro, Director of welcoming of the Red Cross in Seville.

And in morning of Sunday, March 26, with the theme Transiting Frontiers, the following were addressed: the contexts of the "Philippine Border," presented by Aitziber Barrueta, InteRed member responsible for Africa and Asia; "Dominican Border with Haiti", presented by Ana García, also from InteRed working in the Area of ​​Planning and Organizational Development and link with Dominican Republic; "Libyan border," by Beatriz Mesa, COPE Maghreb / ​​Sahel Correspondent.

With the senses of the soul

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Two musical performances completed this interesting program: "Stories and songs to awaken the soul," by the singer and author Luis Guitarra and the oral narrator Carmen Sara, who not only managed to wake up the soul, but also to get excited; and "Gypsy Caravan" music and dance show, performed by dancer and choreographer Nuria Gallego, and by the Carvanserai group, who made us travel from India to North America through Egypt, Turkey, the Balkans, Spain, and Morocco. They helped us discover how original dance is transformed and enriched thanks to the intercultural fusion of the peoples that come together.

Maribel Sancho.

Photos: Coty Valcárcel - Laura M.M.

Information published by the  official webpage of the Teresian Association in Spain 

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