Love the Stranger

Syria’s civil war has been called the worst humanitarian disaster of our time.  Thus far more than 11 million people have been displaced (in addition to almost a quarter of a million people, many civilians, dead).  More than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million urgently needs humanitarian assistance.

Numbers like that are scary.  And they are too big to be effectively addressed with anything less than a worldwide solution.  No one can sit back and say “Not my problem.”  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminded us earlier this week hat “nothing in our interconnected world is a long way away…Never before have John Donne’s words rung more true: ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.'”

We are, as Rabbi Sacks said being summoned to “love the stranger”:

I used to think that the most important line in the Bible was “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Then I realised that it is easy to love your neighbour because he or she is usually quite like yourself. What is hard is to love the stranger, one whose colour, culture or creed is different from yours. That is why the command, “Love the stranger because you were once strangers”, resonates so often throughout the Bible. It is summoning us now. A bold act of collective generosity will show that the world, particularly Europe, has learned the lesson of its own dark past and is willing to take a global lead in building a more hopeful future. Wars that cannot be won by weapons can sometimes be won by the sheer power of acts of humanitarian generosity to inspire the young to choose the way of peace instead of holy war.

Addressing the crisis is all of our responsibility.


There Is No Need For Them To Go Away

Yesterday, I attended Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, where I do a lot of adult faith formation and RCIA, and where Elena sings at Mass when she is in town. The presider at Mass was my friend and colleague Fr. Dan Griffith, pastor of the parish.

The Gospel for that Mass, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, was St. Matthew’s account of the feeding of the multitudes. When Jesus’ disciples encourage him to send the people away so they can go to the village and buy food for themselves, Jesus replies, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food themselves.”

Fr. Dan suggested these words – “There is no need for them to go away” – are ones we should heed in connection with what is being referred to as “the US border crisis.”

These children who are fleeing violence in Central America, he said, are not “immigrants,” but are “refugees.” The UNHCR report “Children on the Run” released in March, as well as interviews with the children conducted by other agencies, reveals that many of them would be in extreme danger if they returned to their home countries.

As Catholic Christians, he preached, we are bound to hear Jesus’ words, which he paraphrased as “There is no need to send them away; give them some shelter yourselves.”

Fr. Dan acknowledged that we need immigration reform. But that, he said, should not help us from meeting the need of these children in need.

His words were not ones some people wanted to hear. But they are ones that needed to be said.