Saturday 5. December 2020
#161 - June 2013


Migration as a Civilisational Challenge


In April, Julio Martinez SJ, Rector of the Pontifical University of Comillas in Madrid was awarded the "Economy and Society" prize of the prestigious Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation. Europe Infos interviewed him.

Why focus on migration as a moral issue?

Migration is among our most pressing current challenges. Several hundred million people live in countries that are not their own. Societies become more multicultural as the world becomes more interdependent. The fact that millions of women and men urgently seek better living conditions is a powerful sign of our times. The drastic change of circumstances can lead migrants to an enriched humanity or to a scandalous social exclusion.


We need to rethink our current concept of citizenship. Globalisation has led to a gradual deterioration in, and even emptying of, the experience of citizenship as a way if conceptualising people’s participation in society.


Can you share with us the content of the work for which your award was conferred?

Citizenship, migration and religion’ is perhaps not a very commercial title but all three elements are essential to me.


First I argue that the legal and political structures that have served until the end of the twentieth century, to organise human coexistence - such as the nation-state, liberal democracies, and citizenship linked to nationality - have been overwhelmed by the new dimensions of globalisation and cultural change.


The second section reviews the main models of citizenship found in contemporary political philosophy. It considers ‘liberal’ models (both libertarian and social liberal), communitarian models, the republican discourse of citizenship; finally the vision that emerges from proposals and criticisms expressed in recent Catholic Social Teaching.


The third section explores the possibility of intercultural dialogue; the foundations for intercultural ethical reflection; the challenge that immigration poses for education, and the ethical transcendence of education itself.


Fourth comes the question which has been at the heart of my research for years. How can we combine our responsibilities as believers and as citizens in the present cultural and political context? Such matters arise as religion in the public sphere; the presence of religions in an interdependent ‘global village’; the role of religion in our ever more pluralistic and multicultural societies. The importance of religion to many million migrants puts a serious question to secularism and to claims to evict religion from the public sphere, and it thus raises new questions for the concept of citizenship.


Finally, I reflect on the duty and the ability of the Church to participate in moral debates in these pluralist societies where the Church remains an actor of some importance, but is no longer the moral pacesetter.


A particular epistemology underlies my book, in which moral and theological reflection bring philosophy and theology into dialogue with each other, open also to other sciences. I aim at a critical and dialogical discourse, between social moral theology and social moral philosophy. I understand the moral theologian’s dialogue with philosophy not as an optional garnish, but as a constitutive element of the theologian’s understanding and communication of mystery.


How do you see the present phase of migration policies in Europe?

In Europe we have tried policies of assimilation (the so-called ‘French model’ which, for example, bans religious symbols in public schools); multicultural segregation (the Anglo-Saxon liberal model). Generally speaking we have understood integration to mean adaptation only by those arriving. We still lack any single legal regime covering the treatment of immigrants in the European Union, probably because immigration is so sensitive an issue for member states.

An intercultural approach supposes that pluralism may be grounded in a positive estimation of diversity. The achievement of pluralism, though, demands consistent policies. These in turn require a calm reflection on the new situation that, while aware of its complexity, is not subject to short-term interests or undue fear. Interculturalism demands that plural actors seek relationships of equality; that such actors be willing to enter into meaningful exchanges and be ready to modify through attentive listening to the other; that they be convinced that this process, though difficult, is good for everyone; but also that they be sensitive to the preservation of a basic unity that itself can impose obligations and restraints.


The interview was conducted by José Ignacio García SJ




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