Dignity across borders
The purpose of this reflection – Dignity across borders: Rethinking the protection of refugees and IDPs from an ethical perspective – has been to challenge contemporary ways of thinking and dealing with issues related to refugees and IDPs. Today, refugees and IDPs are often reduced to their needs. They are often perceived as bodies to shelter, to heal or to clothe; mouths to feed; victims of persecution to protect, etc. In the same perspective, contemporary debates on treatments of refugees and IDPs tend to rotate around the financial costs of processing claims, social security benefits for asylum seekers, and social tensions arising from the presence of large numbers of refugees and IDPs in receiving countries or communities. While acknowledging the importance of all these issues and needs, the stance of this reflection has been to refocus the debate on the concept of human dignity which transcends borders such as nationality, ethnicity, religion, race, etc. From this standpoint, the debate changes and gains more fundamental and moral depths. From the same stance, but grounded in the biblical experience, the Roman Catholic Church‘s social discourse on refugees and IDPs challenges the current international refugee protection regime. Because all are created in the image and likeness of God, all humans share the same dignity. Their dignity and their rights as humans are not related to their citizenship, but to the fact that they have been born into the human family. This is the foundation of Christian universalism that challenges the current refugee protection regime that is based on the membership of states. Yet, Christian universalism includes also a realism that respects the state sovereignty within its borders. Conversely, the main claim of Catholic social teachings on refugee issues is that the refugee issues should not be perceived only from the standpoint of the state, such as national security concern and borders control. Above all, refugees should be perceived as human beings, as dignities across borders.