“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were once a foreigner in Egypt.” (Ex 22:21)
As news this week reported that the Trump administration once again has weakened our country’s moral fabric by preventing migrants coming from Central American from claiming asylum in our country, we are reminded of the ongoing plight of thousands of refugees fleeing their native homeland all over the world. Many are seeking asylum in the US due to persecution and violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
As people of faith, let us be mindful of the migrants from Central America that seek refuge at our southern border. These are men, women and children who have come to avoid the inherent dangers of violence, rape, kidnapping by human and drug traffickers, and even death in their native country. While their hopes are high for a better life, without the ability to seek asylum in the U.S., many will be returned to their former lives of poverty, violence and unemployment.
I witnessed such atrocities first-hand while serving in El Salvador as a pediatrician during that country’s civil war in the late 80s and early 90s. I was inspired to seek ways in which I could work more closely with the marginalized in our society. After being ordained a Jesuit priest in 2008, I served as a parish priest in San Diego and formed A Faith That Does Justice. Then in 2016, I moved to Massachusetts to replicate this multi-faith organization in the greater Boston area.
There is no simple solution to the migration crisis at our borders and the havoc these people have been forced to endure. It will likely require a bipartisan consensus that balances justice with compassion – a difficult task given the current polarization of our political system. Ironically, though, this crisis has brought to the forefront a deeper reality facing our country. Who are we as a people?
The moral fabric of any society is founded in telling the truth and respecting the dignity and rights of all God’s people. For this reason, people of faith must claim their moral consciences, raise their voices, and act by witnessing to love instead of hate, compassion instead of a wanton disregard for the plight of others, and justice in the face of injustice. We must also demand no less from our civil and religious leaders.
Let us as Jews, Christians, Muslims, and people of good will, witness to God’s redemptive light in this world by advocating mutual respect and the common good of all in the midst of those would seek to ignore or eradicate these basic values from our lives and society.