Sunday, September 13, 2015

Refugee Crisis: Valuable Commentary from Recent Articles

As Lauren McCauley reports this morning at Common Dreams, tens of thousands of people rallied yesterday in London and across Europe in support of refugees seeking new, safe places to live. McCauley quotes the Facebook page of the group organizing the rally, #EuropeSaysWelcome

We can't stay silent anymore as our politicians and the media are stigmatizing these men, women and children as threats and burdens. We can't let our governments close all our borders and build fences to keep people in need out. That's not what Europe should be about. It's time speak out against the deadly borders that have been enacted in our name. We want to let all the refugees know: You are welcome!

Commonweal's editorial, published this past week, addressing the refugee situation:

Pope Francis will soon be in the United States. During his visit, he will address the UN and a joint session of Congress. Francis has spoken out eloquently about the refugee crisis, calling it a disgrace. He has called on every Catholic parish in Europe to shelter refugees. How appropriate it would be if he were to challenge both the UN and the U.S. Congress to live up to their humanitarian obligations. He could hold up a photograph of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, drowned and washed ashore trying to escape to Greece with his family. "In another place, another time, this might have been your son, your daughter," Francis could say. "Stop looking over your shoulder at those who only want to divide humanity. Do the right thing: feed the hungry; shelter the homeless; clothe the naked; visit the sick and imprisoned; and bury the dead. Don’t tell me there is nothing you can do about this."

Here's Rick Lyman reporting in today's New York Times about the resistance of many citizens of eastern bloc nations to welcoming the refugees: 

Talking by phone while driving from an economic conference in southern Poland, Robert Biedron, the mayor of the city of Slupsk, said he was ashamed of the reaction of many to the plight of the migrants. "There is always conflict around the world and people need help," Mr. Biedron said. "Perhaps, someday again, the Polish people might need help. Do we want to hear, 'Oh, Poles are a danger to society, you are different, you are not of our culture.' " 
Already, he said, he has blocked many former friends on Facebook — "even well-educated people, who I thought were my friends" — over anti-immigrant comments they have posted. 
"Here I am, driving on a road that was built with European Union money," Mr. Biedron said. "It was built with money taken from taxpayers in Italy and Germany and France. Now we refuse to do our part? I am really ashamed."

Another Common Dreams article today by Abby Zimet marks both the commemoration of  9/11 and  the start of the Jewish New Year, with "Shema," a poem written by Jewish-Puerto Rican poet Aurora Levina Morales

Hear the call of the ram's horn and rouse yourselves from the dream of comfort
into the cold light of day. It is better to be awake than comfortable.
The illusion was bought on credit
and the street children of Brazil are our creditors.
Our creditors are the elders of Nigerian villages
bulldozed by Chevron's private armies,
Colombian coal miners gunned down for saying "union"
to Drummond Co. Inc., coal kings of Alabama, by thugs
paid for in the name of a fictitious war on drugs . . . .

And at Human Rights Watch, a heart-rending collection of photos by Daniel Etter from which the photo at the head of the posting, of a Syrian baby sleeping on the floor of the Keleti train station in Budapest on 31 August, is taken.

I hope that Christians, as they celebrate Christmas this year, will be remembering photos like the one above, and recognizing that the flight of the Holy Family as it escaped violence at the time of Christ's birth prefigured and encapsulated the flight of many other poor, desperate families throughout history and today, seeking some niche in which to live in safety and with prosperity. Celebrations of Christmas that are detached from these realities, and which do not remember our obligation to welcome the stranger, seem to me tinny in the extreme.

(The Daniel Etter photo is copyrighted. I'm assuming that this does not prohibit its being shared on a not-for-profit blog. If any reader has information to help clarify this point for me, I'd welcome it.)

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