Theology of Migration

Migration is an important phenomenon of our times. Unfortunately, it not so much welcomed in our days. Migrants are looked upon as burden by countries. What could be a Christian response to migration? is there a theology of migration. Migration is a sign of our times and is a challenge of pastoral care. Existentialists tell us that humans as being-in-the-world are thrown into the world and hence experience alienation. We are not entirely at home in the world. The Bible presents alienation as condition of entire humanity. The first sin of Adam and Eve led them to be expelled from paradise and be exiled to the earth. Humanity, therefore, lives in search of a lost home. The history of salvation is a journey from alienation to the freedom of a promised land. Christian life is pilgrim experience. Often, as we find in our country, Christians are almost living in exile in their own homeland. This condition of alienation becomes the locus of God-with-us experience for us Christians. This God-with-us experience is to be lived through incarnation of God’s hospitality in our inhospitable condition. We are called to be in solidarity with the strangers, orphans and the widow in the Old Testament. The new commandment of love challenges us to recognize God’s presence in the neighbor in the New Testament.

Hospitality is a pressing question in our society. We have the challenge to understand it anew today. Jacques Derrida seems to offer a new insight over the issue of hospitality. Derrida seems to say that our practices of hospitality is tainted by stains of hostility. Our hospitality is conditional. The stranger is not unconditionally or openly welcomed but has to adjust to our expectations and cannot challenge what we deem as boundaries of purity of our community. This means the stranger has to conform to our image and likeness in order to become worthy of our hospitality. The otherness of guest or stranger has to be sacrificed on the altar of our hospitality. We, therefore, have the challenge to give up our coercive conformity imposed on the stranger in order to be qualified to receive our hospitality. Thus, our hospitality is marked by a hidden hostility. We are captive of a closed future. We do not trust an open future. We are closed to the catholicity of the future as well as the catholicity of the migrant. The stranger can be both an enemy or friend. Hence, we have to anticipate a closed future by making sure that the stranger is well behaved and thus, worthy of our hospitality. Derrida rejects such a hospitality as violent and considers it as not a real practice of hospitality. To him it is nothing short of hostility.

Perhaps, a theology of migration requires us to understand real hospitality in the light of Derrida’s view. God’s hospitality is unconditional. God accepts an open future. No one has to prove his worthiness to experience God’s hospitality. Any migrant (human) can come to God. We can see God’s unconditional welcome being incarnated and made present in the life, teachings and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. God in Jesus is hospitable to humanity even to the point of human hostility that gave him death on the cross. God still embraces humanity and shares the fruits of the merits of His Son with everyone who is open to receive them. Hence, we are challenged to stay open to the catholicity of the God as well as the catholicity of the migrant. Migrant to us stands in the place of God. When we receive the stranger, we receive God. Guest as divine has been part of the ethos of our civilization that teaches us that entire humanity is God’s family.

Derrida teaches that true hospitality is an hospitality of visitation and not a hospitality of invitation. Hospitality of visitation is open and catholic. hospitality of invitation is already closed and occurs within the horizon of expectations. Hospitality by visitation keeps the door always open and lock always remains unlocked. Hospitality of invitation converts hospitality into a gated conditional product of our self-centered preferences which is extended only on our own terms. Hospitality of visitation is open to the future or the coming of the other as an advent of God’s presence but without horizon of expectation and without prefiguration. Hospitality by visitation is difficult and hence, we tend to convert hospitality by visitation into hospitality by invitation. The challenge is to stay open in faith to the catholicity of God as well as the catholicity of the stranger or the migrant. It is only by embracing radical catholicity of hospitality that we can truly practice hospitality of visitation otherwise, we may be deceiving ourselves by converting all hospitality in to closed hospitality of invitation. When we practice the catholicity of hospitality, actualize realized eschatology. Hospitality of visitation can only be lived as an already and not yet hospitality. It a real hospitality to the migrants which is itself is on a migration (already/ not yet dynamism).

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao