President’s Christmas and New Year message discusses migrant crisis

The nativity story is being re-enacted today as the migrant crisis leaves millions worried about the future, President Michael D Higgins states in his Christmas message.

Wishing the people of Ireland a happy Christmas and New Year, Mr Higgins said the 1916 centenary commemorations will be a “lasting source of pride and confidence” but are a reminder of how precious our freedom is.

Mr Higgins said Christmas is a special period, a time of “celebrations, of closeness, and of hope”.

Turning to the migrant crisis, he said it is time to focus on the message in the tale of a child in the manger, born to parents without a home and reliant on the hospitality of strangers.

“As this year ends and a new one begins, the dream of ‘peace on Earth’ can seem very distant,” he said.

He pointed to the past year, during which we have witnessed horrific violence and suffering in countries such as Syria, Yemen, and Iraq but also closer to home in Istanbul, Nice, Brussels, and many other towns and cities across Europe.

Mr Higgins said: “Internationally, ever more children, women, and men are on the move, living precarious existences in the refugee camps of the world, as conflict and disasters continue to force people to flee, flee from their homes. The humanitarian situation of millions of vulnerable people is still awaiting an adequate global response.

“The circumstances of the birth of Christ, with its forced migration, homelessness, and powerlessness, are being re-enacted for us the world over, in the conditions of migrants — including infants and children — as they wait, not knowing what the future will hold for them.”

Mr Higgins has been vocal on the migrant crisis. In August 2015, he said the EU response was “shameful”, and has continued to be a critic of the international response.

Referring to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mr Higgins said they reminded us that “a person is a person through other people”.

Mr Higgins called for new policies to protect those here and abroad.

“This fundamental awareness of the importance of our love for — and dependence on — each other should inform all our plans and actions, and should give us the wisdom to generate new models and new policies that will ensure inclusive action at home and abroad,” he said.

Many people in Ireland are also worried about the future, he said.

“It is a time of uncertainty at home and across the European Union, where life has been a struggle at an economic and social level,” said the President.

Looking back on the success of the Easter Rising commemorations, Mr Higgins said the aspects of our history that had been “forgotten, evaded, or even downplayed” were once again reflected upon.

“As we now face into a new year, we are challenged to embrace the new,” he said. “We need courage to depart from what has not served us well, and we need the inspiration to make new connections with each other and with the vulnerable planet on which we live.”

Finally, he said his wish is that we will continue to seek to build the true Republic of which our forebears dreamt, embracing the values, possibilities, and responsibilities contained in that dream.

“I wish each and every one of you a blessed and happy Christmas and a New Year of restored hope and faith in Ireland’s future,” he said.

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