CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 14 April 2018

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Plan to deploy troops along Mexico border knocked by bishops

MEXICO CITY (CNS): The Mexican Bishops’ Conference has criticised a plan floated on April 4 by the president of the United States of America (US), Donald Trump, to deploy National Guard troops along the border with Mexico and issued a strong defence of migrants, saying the Catholic Church could not stand by “in the face of suffering by our brother migrants as they seek better conditions by crossing the border to work and contribute to the common good.”
 
In an April 7 statement addressed to people in Mexico and the United States, as well as the presidents of both countries, the Mexican bishops echoed the sentiments of their counterparts along the US border areas, saying the frontier between the two countries “is not a war zone,” but an area “called to be an example of social connection and joint responsibility.”
 
The statement, For the Dignity of Migrants, signed by the bishops of 16 northern Mexican dioceses and the conference’s six-member presidential council, said, “The only future possible for our region is the future built with bridges of trust and shared development, not with walls of indignity and violence.” 
 
It said, “There is only a future in the promotion and defence of the equal dignity and the equal liberty between human beings,” adding, “Even more, Pope Francis has told us unambiguously: ‘A person who only thinks of building walls, wherever it may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.’”
 
The Mexican bishops’ statement also came on the heels of a series of tweets from Trump criticising Mexico for not stopping a caravan of some 1,000 Central American migrants from moving northward toward the US-Mexico border.
 
The annual Stations of the Cross Caravan, which travels through Mexico every Easter, stalled in southern Oaxaca state, some 418 kilometres from the Guatemalan border, and organisers and Mexican immigration officials provided participants—including many women and children—with documents allowing them 20 days to leave the country or 30 days to regularise their immigration status.
 
Participants spoke of fleeing gang violence in El Salvador and Honduras, while organisers said there were many more Hondurans than this year due to political repression in the country after a contentious election last November.
 
The bishops’ statement called for defending the dignity of migrants, saying, “Migrants aren’t criminals, rather they are vulnerable human beings that have the authentic right to personal and community development.”
 
Trump’s tweets caused consternation in Mexico and promoted rare unity between the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his fiercest critics.
 
“President Trump: If you wish to reach agreements with Mexico, we stand ready,” Peña Nieto said in a national address on April 5. 
 
“If your recent statements are the result of frustration due to domestic policy issues, to your laws or to your Congress, it is to them that you should turn to, not to Mexicans,” he said.
 
The bishops took issue with the Mexican government for “not having created enough opportunities for development among our poor and marginalised people,” though Mexican migration has diminished over the last decade. But defended the country against Trump’s disparaging comments.
 
“The shortcomings that we Mexicans have can’t be used as justification for promoting antagonism among people we call friends and brothers,” the bishops said. 
 
“It doesn’t go along with human dignity … to build walls that divide us, or implement actions that violate (or cause us violence),” they said.
 
Eight bishops from four US border states issued a joint statement on April 6 expressing their concern about troop placement at the border.
 
“This is not a war zone, but instead is comprised of many peaceful and law-abiding communities that are also generous in their response to human suffering,” the bishops said. 
 
The statement said they recognise the right of nations to control and secure their borders and to respect the rule of law but it also pointed out that current US law allows those who arrive in this country fleeing persecution to “due process as their claims are reviewed.”
 
Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life “is not a crime,” the bishops added.
 
The bishops expressed deep concern that the current “divisive rhetoric often promotes the dehumanisation of immigrants as if all were threats and criminals” and urged Catholics and people of goodwill “to look past the dehumanising rhetoric regarding immigrants and remember that they are a valuable population, our neighbours, and our sisters and brothers in Christ.”

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