Opinion Fr Oskar Wermter SJ
PEOPLE have been crossing oceans, deserts, mountain ranges, rivers and lakes since time immemorial.
Our own ancestors in southern Africa came centuries ago from central Africa. The Americas have been populated by people from a great variety of countries. (So why are they now building fences against more immigrants?).
What makes people today, here in Zimbabwe and among our neighbours, pack their bags and hit the road to South Africa or cross the Zambezi in a northerly
direction, dreaming of a new life beyond the Mediterranean?
Crossing over to a new continent is a very personal decision and has very personal reasons and motives. Today, I want to focus on just one.
Why do our governments allow all these people to leave their, indeed, our own country? Their departure is a great loss. They were born to us, we received
them as fellow citizens, educated them, gave them good health and wanted them to join our workforce and to contribute to the growth of the country.
It may sound strange, but people are the greatest treasure of a country. They are its most precious capital. We must not waste what is so precious and lose
it, deprive the country and our national community of the most precious treasure we have as a people.
It is most unfortunate that people have so little respect for new human life among us. It has become a common assumption that there are just too many human
beings on this planet. The demographers have taught us that we are overwhelmed by a population disaster, another Tsunami of people which is rolling over us and
asphyxiating us. Nobody doubts and everybody takes it as a fundamental certainty that there is “population explosion”. If you question it, you are an
obscurantist and ignoramus. It is also this fear, this panicking that makes leaders put up walls against being invaded by their neighbours.
People are not rubbish or waste, ugly leftovers or garbage. They are not to be disposed of as refuse. Leaders of countries must deeply respect and appreciate
the infinite value of their people. It is not gold, or platinum, oil or other minerals that present the greatest treasure of a country, but its people.
That is why no leader should send his soldiers into military action against his own people. Every leader must be deeply concerned about the children of the
nation, their health and education. He must regret the loss of his country’s children, its workers, artists, writers and potential leaders when they leave
frustrated by failure (unemployment, lack of housing and excessively long military service, among others.)
Recently, I underwent surgery at the hands of Zimbabwean surgeons. They trained overseas as consultants and came back. That is as it should be. We should not
lose such badly needed specialists. We educated them at our schools, had them trained at our universities: They should now serve us and our country. It seems unfair if other countries benefit from our education and professional training. We should not have to go to countries overseas for medical treatment and
surgery. We have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who are qualified. Let us bid them welcome when they come back to their country, with knowledge and
new skills, experience and self-confidence.
They were born here and grew up here. They owe it to their country, which our Creator gave them, to develop and make it grow. What is the point of going to
countries already developed and equipped with sophisticated facilities and fully trained technical staff and scientists of a high standard , while neglecting their own country which still needs to develop and progress?
The “ruling party” may think “good riddance” if bright and competent people leave. Intelligence makes people critical.
Party politicians are not interested in people voting for the “wrong” party. But we need clever people who see far and have a wider horizon.
A narrow mind is restricted to the interests of just one party; it is tunnel vision which sees only a very small part of our national reality. It is not enough to care about just one party, we must embrace all and be concerned about the “common good”, and welcome all the gifts and talents our sons and daughters may have. Nothing and nobody must be wasted.
Some peoples and countries are called “failed States”. Their administration, economy, judicial system, power grids and energy networks are dysfunctional. Their labour market is restricted. Their industrial development and scientific progress have been left behind internationally. Their communication networks and media do not put the people in touch with their fellow citizens, let alone international society. There is no freedom for critical voices and investigative reporters.
The budget is unbalanced: The military may be strong, but the health sector and education are weak. Taxes provide public funds, but scholarships and stipends for education in engineering, sciences, and better food production are not available. Talented people end up selling tomatoes on Julius Nyerere Way.
A failed State may have a Constitution, but fails to respect it and apply it to the political reality.
A State that does not pay attention to its Bill of Rights, and human dignity, does not respect its women, a leader who never listens to the people and is not interested in what people think and say is, indeed, a “failed” enterprise.
A State where human life is regarded as worthless and something superfluous and disposable, where young people are tools of the power politics of the State and are sacrificed for the interests of the political class, such a State is seen as a colossal failure by the young, who then look for greener pastures beyond the ocean.
In Europe, various factions in civil society and political parties fight over immigration. How many immigrants and of what kind, culturally and professionally, and from where, can be admitted? That may be a crucial issue.
But it may be even more important to persuade leaders of developing countries to rebuild their economies, create work places for their workers and professionals, men and women, set up a functioning power system, use renewable energy, respect nature as God’s creation, educate future leaders to be men and women of integrity and honesty, straighten out anything that is crooked, like corruption, theft of public funds, fraudulent elections, and work towards a political style that respects the truth and denounces public liars who mislead the public.
What can be done about excessively high migration? The answer is not building walls and allowing rescue ships with large numbers of helpless people to founder on the High Seas, but to reform the “failed States” where these people come from so that people may not run away from their homes, but find a better life, not overseas, but in their own, well governed countries.