Rome: The United States’ embassy to the Holy See will sponsor the second in a series of Town Hall conversations on Migration Thursday May 24th. Guest speakers at the event entitled, “Building Bridges of Opportunity: Women and Migration”, include the President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio’ who is expected to talk about forced migration and violence against women. Dr. Martina Liebsch, Policy Director for the Church’s umbrella aid and development agency Caritas Internationalis will also participate, speaking about their work in the field.
Farah Pandith, the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities and the child of Indian migrants, will also contribute Thursday’s discussions.
In applauding the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See’s initiative, Pandith told Vatican Radio,
“Ambassador (Miguel) Diaz has a vision that is very important. We have to think about the issues that are hitting the world at this moment in time. One of which is of course the status and the role of women who happen to be immigrants and what takes place in those communities and within those families is important not just on a micro level but it has an impact on the macro level. So the things that I will be speaking about will be the trends that I’ve seen with immigrant communities and immigrant patterns and the impact that they have around the world and the role of women who are minorities and how they’re raising their children.”
Directly responsible to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Pandith focuses largely on Muslims under the age of 30 - the majority of the planet’s 1.6 billion Muslims – working at a grassroots, community level and via social media to help them build networks for constructive dialogue and entrepreneurship.
Although her office does not deal directly with the darker sides of migration such as human trafficking, slavery and sexual exploitation, Pandith is quick to suggest that people of different cultures, backgrounds and faiths can and should work together to combat such criminal activities in every way possible. And social media present platforms from which to speak out forcefully against these injustices while offering ever-evolving opportunities to bring people together to promote mutual respect.
Asked how her office collaborates with the Catholic Church and other Christian communities, Pandith said one of the reasons why she is in Rome and meeting with people in the Vatican
“is because I think it is a very important thing that we do to increase coalition building. I think it is very important that there are messages that we all have together no matter (our) governments or different faiths - that we all have to work together on building mutual respect. And I am here at the Vatican to do just that – to find ways that we can focus on young people together; to work on issues of promoting mutual respect.”
Pandith said that she hopes to get Christians to participate in the campaign she helped to launch called 2012 Hours against Hate.
“If you go on Facebook you can find 2012 Hours against Hate and we’re asking people to donate one hour or more of their time to walk in somebody else’s shoes. So, to do something for someone who doesn’t look like you, pray like you or live like you. So, we’ve come here to the Vatican to talk to them about getting Christian youth engaged in this campaign. And, we’ve gotten a very good response. But more importantly, we’ve all understood that the message of pushing back against hatred is a central one of any human. We must do more to promote mutual respect. And one of the ways in which you can do that is to build, to have different messengers go out there. When you see the destruction of churches, it should not just be Christians that speak out against it. It should be others: Jews and Muslims, and Hindus and others who can say this is unacceptable.”
Listen to more from Tracey McClure’s interview with Farah Pandith: