Saturday, 15 May 2010


“The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people - no mere father and mother - as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.” - Pearl S. Buck

Today is the day to celebrate the International Day of Families, which this year focuses on the impact of migration on families around the world. As the world becomes more and more a place of increasing social and economic disparities, people in many countries are forced to leave their homes and try to search for a better place to live and raise their children. Poverty, unemployment, political or armed conflicts or violations of human rights are strong incentives for migration. Opportunity is sought by parents through migration to improve the well-being of their children and other extended family members.

In the countries receiving the immigrants, families can earn a better living and send income to family members left back in the home country. Migrants contribute to the economy of the host country, while also enriching the social and cultural fabric. Women migrant workers can work, study and gain many opportunities denied them in their home country.

But all is not well in paradise! It is very often that migrants face harsh living conditions, low wages, prejudice and discrimination. They suffer disproportionately in times of economic hardship and unemployment can hit them first. Children of migrants are a very vulnerable group with a great toll to pay. Human trafficking, child labour and violence can damage them irreparably and the social, emotional and psychological effects are dire.

Migrants enrich and diversify our communities, stimulate our economies and provide a means of making the world a better and more equitable place. Acceptance of migrants as an integral part of society enhances our society in multiple ways. The family unit of migrants is usually a tightly knit one that has to survive in adversity, through love and mutual support. How often do we admire that quality in these families?

For Music Saturday, something that is very apt. A migrant family archetype is the Holy Family on its flight to Egypt, as imagined in music by Hector Berlioz. Here is King’s College Choir, Cambridge, singing  “The Shepherds’ Farewell” from “L’ Enfance du Christ”, Op 25.

Blest are ye beyond all measure,
Thou happy father, mother mild!
Guard ye well your heav´nly treasure
The Prince of Peace, the Holy Child!
God go with you, God protect you,
Guide you safely through the wild!

Thou must leave Thy lowly dwelling,
The humble crib, the stable bare,
Babe, all mortal babes excelling,
Content our early lot to share,
Loving father, loving mother,
Shelter thee with tender care!

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