Angels Unawares

Understanding Migration

Migration – moving from one territory to another – is a fundamental part of human experience and made us who we are. Very early human species were leaving east Africa and covering thousands of miles to move into Asia and northwest Africa. Traveling and encountering new climates, landscapes, animals and foods led to the development of the first human cultures. Language, music, tool-making, and social organization were all responses to the needs and challenges of migration. Recent fossil analyses suggest that different types of early humans lived and worked side-by-side. Migration was not a threat but an opportunity to the first humans

Climate change was a primary factor pushing early humans to seek out new places. Today, push factors also include war, injustice, and religious persecution. Pull factors – those attracting people to new countries – include equal opportunity, peace, and safety. These conditions may change in a country at any given moment, so a citizen of a pull country might find themselves in a push country due to factors outside their control. The one thing we can control, which international human rights standards try to uphold, is how any migrant arriving at our borders is treated.   

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Angels Unawares calls us to solidarity with people who had to leave their homes and found refuge here. As we care for them, we may be caring for angels unawares.

Read column from Johan van Parys, Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts


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The Migrants & Refugees Section is a small pastoral office of the Holy See, personally directed by Pope Francis, working to help the Church worldwide to accompany vulnerable people on the move, including those who are forcibly displaced by conflict, natural disaster, persecution or extreme poverty, refugees and victims of human trafficking. More information at: