By Dave Hougan
Yeshua Instiute Board Member
Humanity has been undergoing a refugee crisis since at least the 12th or 13th century BCE when Moses led a persecuted flock out of Egypt in search of a promised land. Centuries later the Holy Family joined the ranks of refugees when they had to flee, ironically, back to Egypt (Matt 2:13-23).
Long before Pope Francis took up the cause of refugees, Pope Pius XII and St. Pope John Paul II spoke of the moral claim refugees have on the rest of humanity.
Since the end of World War II, the focus has tended to be on immigrants and refugees seeking refuge in western Europe. But in recent decades, the challenge has crossed the ocean.
Millions of citizens of countries in Central and South America have migrated to the U.S. border – many seeking legal refugee status, many others crossing or seeking to cross into the U.S. illegally.
Huge, complex challenge
The challenge is huge and complex, but that does not mean someone who aspires to be a Jesus-like Leader – or what Pope Francis calls a missionary disciple – can simply ignore it or retreat behind political labels.
Currently, our southern border is the scene of many immigrants striving to enter the US in order to escape political and personal danger, as well as lack of economic opportunities to support one’s family. Many have traveled hundreds of miles on foot with children facing incredible hardships and dangers from criminals.
Meanwhile, for decades members of Congress have found themselves in gridlock regarding both short- and long-term solutions to the challenge.
Instead of reflecting a political stance, it’s time we affirm the historical teaching of our church by encouraging one another to be motivated by a Christian perspective based on scripture -- most notably Matthew 25:31-46 (Jesus identifies with the poor), Luke 10:30-37 (the Good Samaritan), and Luke 16:19-31 (the rich man and Lazarus.)
Cry of the poor
In the Catholic Church we sign a song, “The Lord hears the cry of the Poor.” The Jesus who was born in a stable with cattle, fled for his life to Egypt, and proclaimed the good news to the poor is telling us to listen to the cry of these people who are our hemispheric neighbors.
In the past there were bipartisan attempts at the governmental level to address the complexity of this issue. However, the politics of fear and xenophobia have prevented legislation from moving through Congress.
There are proposals that address the myriad of issues:
- covering the current 11 million undocumented who are currently present especially those registered in the DACA program;
- prioritizing smart border controls with technology and infrastructure;
- managing the border and protecting the border communities;
- fighting criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking and drugs; and,
- getting to the root causes that force people to flee their homeland especially in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Progress on any of them would be a step forward, but a long-term solution probably involves addressing all of these issues – and possibly more.
We can make a difference
The scope and complexity of the problems can make it difficult for a disciple of Jesus to see a way to help alleviate the human suffering. But there are some things we can – and should -- do: What action steps can we take to address this crisis?
- Pray for our suffering neighbors
- Prioritize Christian compassion as our motivation for responding, instead of reacting out of a political stance.
- Write to and encourage our state and federal legislators to seek and find bipartisan solutions to the immigration issues.
- Identify and financially support border organizations that are responding to the physical and legal needs of these immigrants, such as Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
Our direct assistance can help alleviate substantial human suffering today and our outreach as Christian disciples to our elected representatives can remind them that public policy matters need to be addressed if this human tragedy is ever to come to an end.