By Christopher Wells
“It is only by joint efforts” of academics, as well as leaders of NGOs, international agencies, and humanitarian aid organizations, that we can achieve and sustain fundamental works of justice, compassion and human dignity,” Cardinal Michael Czerny said on Monday.
The Prefect for the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was speaking at an international conference focused on “Initiatives in refugee and migrant education. Moving forward. Digging deeper. Together.”
At the conference hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Cardinal Czerny emphasized first the concept of togetherness, while acknowledging that there is no single approach suitable to address the current crises affecting migrant and refugee eduation.
Nonetheless, he noted, Catholic social teaching can offer a framework that can help participants “explore, share ideas, and begin moving together.”
Education challenges for migrants
Addressing the idea of “moving forward,” the Cardinal insisted on the importance of investigating the challenges for the education of migrants and refugees. It is necessary, he said, to be prepared to offer educational opportunities in various locations under diverse circumstances, and suggested that Catholic organizations can offer examples of good practices, including distance learning and scholarships for migrants and refugees.
He noted, too, that “opportunites to work, earn a living, and be self-reliant are the most effective ways for refugees to build their lives.” This is an important aspect of higher-level education, where greater discrepancy is seen between the experiences of refugees and their host community peers.
Cardinal Czerny also highlighted the need for mutual recognition of academic qualifications, training courses for pastoral agents, and international and interdisciplinary education, which includes sharing resources.
Finally, the Cardinal emphasized the importance of an integral education that is not focused solely on practical and technical training. Instead, following Pope Francis, Cardinal Czerny emphasized a need to educate “the head, heart, and hands,” for an integral education.
“Governments, practitioners, communities, the Church have complementary responsibilities to provide access to meaningful educational opportunities for refugees and migrants, working hand in hand with a clear mission and generosity of spirit,” the Cardinal said in conclusion, in order “to offer those who have been uprooted from their homes, the opportunity of quality education to become men and women for others, siblings all, carers of our common home.”