PATSY McGARRY, Irish Times Religious Affairs Correspondent

DISCRIMINATION: XENOPHOBIA AND discrimination were “growing from Norway to France as part of an anti-emigrant outswell”, the UN special representative for migration and development Peter Sutherland said yesterday.

Speaking at the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin he said just 17.5 per cent of Europeans “believe that immigration is a positive”.

The condition of the 15 million to 20 million Muslims in Europe involved “high levels of discrimination which we as Christians must absolutely oppose”, he added.

He noted that “60 per cent of Europeans believe all Muslims are fanatics” which stereotype “could hardly be further from the truth”. He said “without being complacent”, immigration had been “a remarkable success in Ireland, with 760,000 immigrants recorded on last year’s census and an increase in immigrant numbers over the past three years.

Alice Leahy, founder/director of the homeless agency Trust told a workshop at the congress that many people, including those in church, State and community groups who work hard in building and fostering community involvement, are frequently challenged by an insensitive bureaucracy and meaningless jargon. “But that challenge forces us all to question our commitment to love our neighbour and dig deeply into our human resources and beliefs.”

She said “the message of the Gospel is an inclusive one, and silence in the face of people being excluded cannot be an option. We also need to care for each other and defend those who speak out.” She spoke of the amazing work being done daily by religious groups all over the world with so much of it being taken for granted, particularly in our own country.

She warned against the “tendency to think that Christians and, I guess, on the part of all religions, to think they are the only ones who care. On the contrary, there are many with no religious or dormant religious beliefs who care for vulnerable people in society and we are all, as Bob Dylan said, ‘prisoners in a world of mystery’.”