“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you’.” (Gn 12:1) With these words, the Scriptures remind the Christian community that the phenomenon of migration is an integral part of salvation history.
Migration today is not a phenomenon limited to the United States. It affects all continents and has grown into a tragic situation of global proportions. Pope Francis said in his 2017 Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, “Not only does this concern those looking for dignified work or better living conditions, but also men and women, the elderly and children, who are forced to leave their homes in the hope of finding safety, peace and security. “
In the United States, for example, newspaper and magazines often publish articles about the terrible things that some migrants have experienced while traveling along the U.S.-Mexico border. There are stories of murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, days spent in holding cells. However, amid the cacophony of voices vying for attention in the “immigration crisis,” there are only a few who have identified the real crisis – what Pope Francis calls the culture of indifference.
Whenever and wherever human beings suffer, it is the moral integrity of those around them that enables them to see Jesus amid the suffering. It is the moral fabric of a person that empowers him or her to acknowledge the humanity of another in need and to do as instructed in the Gospel of Matthew: “Listen to him!” (Mt 17:5)
By listening to the cry of another person in need, we are echoing the words of the Psalmist: “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Ps 33:4-5)
While working as the peace fellow at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, I had the chance to put faith into action at Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas. Annunciation House is a home of hospitality for thousands of immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees who have no other place to go. Without hospitality centers like Annunciation House, these vulnerable people would be living on the streets. Instead, they find not only a place to stay, clean clothes, meals, showers, and but help with contacting family and planning to travel onward.
Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House wrote about the crisis this way:
“The real crisis has nothing to do with the numbers of immigrants arriving at the border, for the land is vast and the space is welcoming. It has nothing to do with the need for clothing, for the bags of clothing are piled so high as to overwhelm. It has nothing to do with a lack of places to receive and shelter the many, for the churches are empty and in search of an identity of what it means to be a church.
What it does have to do with is our moral integrity as individuals and as a people, for we are in danger. We are in danger of looking inward and discovering only a profound emptiness. For this emptiness all the food in the world, all of the clothing in all of the malls, all of the houses with huge numbers of bedrooms, all of the money and abundance that surrounds us will never fill. For this emptiness can only be filled by the God who comes to us in the distressing disguise of the poor, the immigrant poor.”
May the Lord help us to take action to protect our brothers and sisters who are migrants and refugees; and respond to Pope Francis’ call to immigration adopt policies, both international and national, that promote life and human dignity.