Over the past few days, the President has issued a number of orders restricting access to the United States by persons of the Islamic Faith and directing planning for the construction of a southern border barrier (often referred to as the “wall”). He has specifically banned entrance for citizens seeking refuge from several Muslim majority countries and suspended for 120 days, the resettlement of persons and families classified as refugees by both the United Nations and United States’ law.
Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese joins with our Catholic Bishops in the United States, Catholic Charities USA, and with many of our sister Catholic Charities agencies throughout the United States in opposition to these Executive Orders and calls for immediate reversal of them by the President and his Administration. Whether these orders are generated in true concern for the security and welfare of American citizens or not does not matter; they do not fulfill that mission and only serve to alienate and distant us from our responsibilities in the global community.
Christ is in All Who Seek Harmony & Peace
Throughout turbulent times in world history, various Catholic role models arose to demonstrate how we should confront our fears and embrace the Gospel of the Lord to guide us in our actions and words. The Holy Family itself demonstrated that the refugee needs to be welcomed not with fear but compassion as they demonstrated in their flight from Herod with the infant Christ. Christ is in all who seek harmony and peace.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.” (Gospel of Matthew)
Interfaith Dialogue in the Catholic Tradition
St. Francis of Assisi set out to the lands of Islam with the intention to engage in dialogue and converting them to Catholicism. However, upon arrival and the engagement with our Islamic Brethren, he developed a better understanding and some say respect for their beliefs and interpretation of scripture. Certainly, St. Francis shared his faith and belief in the Trinity. He was not so successful in converting. However, his engagement rooted in dignity and respect serves as a model of behavior today.
Lawrence Cunningham (2006) “…I think that Francis is a model in the sense he comes nonviolently, nonbelligerently and honestly. I think interreligious dialogue can only function effectively if people say truthfully and nonbelligerently what they believe and why. Also, Francis comes as a genuine contemplative; he speaks not only from intellectual knowledge but deep spiritual experience. I think that's a good model for dialogue with believers of any religious tradition.”
Let Not History Repeat
In the middle of the 20th Century, the nations of the world were almost entirely engulfed in World War Two. Some draw very real parallels of the situation today with the basic failure of humanity during that time to maintain respect for the inherent existence of human dignity in all people. Where St. Francis was conscious of the need for dialogue and that physical conflict was not an answer, this philosophy escaped too much of humanity collectively and individual’s consciousness in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Our failure to recognize St. Francis’ philosophy resulted in the deaths of over 26 million human beings by either genocide or warfare.
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe demonstrated the ultimate respect for human life by volunteering to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz. As a Catholic, the Friar demonstrated that the preservation of another’s life, of a nonbeliever by surrendering yours not to the Nazis, but to Christ, tells us the refugee or migrant newcomer to our communities regardless of nationality or religion share the same place as we do in the eyes of Christ. Our dignity, our value is the same as we are all people of God and part of the grand creation of the Father. We as a nation will be judged by our actions towards such newcomers and the devaluation and attempts to reduce their dignity will not fare well for us as a nation or individuals.
While the President and his Administration were drafting and signing the recent Executive Orders restricting entrance to the United States and lowering the number of persons to be settled in this federal fiscal year to 50,000 from 110,000, Pope Francis was stating his support for the migrant and fleeing refugees. While blessing a sculpture to be placed in the port of the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa, the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands fleeing poverty and violence, he was also giving physical substance to his words and prayers.
For more on the stance of our Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-026.cfm
- A message from Jim Gannon, CEO/Executive Director of Catholic Charities