CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 October 2018

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Migrants seek a welcome

Let us look at ourselves as human beings with dignity, values and inalienable human rights. We are persons not like the animals that see enemies and rivals all around them in the wild, and who fight and kill for food and survival. Most humans have a higher standard to live by and coexist in peace on this planet—but not all. 
 
Because we are so many and have driven most other species to the point of extinction, respectful cooperation and helping all live with equality and justice is essential for us to live in harmony and peace. 
 
The principle of loving and caring for others as we would care for ourselves is a survival strategy as well as one by which we can reach out to others in need, welcome them into our communities and build trust, harmony, give mutual support and bring peace and stability to our society.
 
When we ignore such virtues and values, we return to the selfish inward tribal mentality that rejects and excludes others and leads to conflict and violence. In wealthy European and North American countries, discrimination and rejection of the poor and the wretched from the Middle East and Africa is growing. 
 
Some fanatical anti-foreigner, anti-migrant, anti-Muslim groups have worked themselves into a frenzy of hatred to the point of racial hysteria. They attack migrant shelters and migrants themselves. 
 
This present generation in the developed nations has never experienced war, destruction, hunger, want, or displacement since the Bosnian war, or the great depression, or in Europe at the end of World War Two.
 
That was when the European continent was filled with refugees, displaced people and migrants wandering from one country to another hungry and homeless. They were welcomed and they rebuilt a shattered Europe. They travelled to the United States of America (US) by the hundreds of thousands. 
 
They were welcomed, and that welcome and the struggle of these migrants is what made America great. Under the current president, Donald Trump, half the nation is opposed to migrants even though they themselves are migrants or descended from migrants. 
 
They have abandoned compassion, tolerance, and inclusiveness, they can’t make America or any nation great with racial hatred, but the sacrifice and struggle of new migrants can.  
 
This present generation never suffered much want and many people are electing leaders who embrace a selfish, inward, even racist attitude towards the wretched of the earth, the downtrodden, the hungry, along with those fleeing war and violence and the violation of their basic rights. War caused by exploitative policies of the West.
 
The rescue ship, Aquarius, carried 629 migrants, saved from a perilous journey, escaping hardship, hunger poverty and false unjust imprisonment in their own countries and then again in Libya, following a hope and a dream of survival and a better life. 
 
While there are many caring people of compassion in the countries of Europe and in the US and Canada, there are many more who are exclusionist, and live in selfish fear and harbour racist attitudes. 
 
The 629 unfortunate migrants were turned away from Catholic Italy and Malta where the electorate chose leaders who are implementing an anti-migrant policies. Hungry, Romania and Poland are banning migrants in the name of keeping their “Christian culture pure and untainted.”
 
Austria and Italy are following these exclusionist policies. It is a big setback for human rights and the European Union. Some countries have built thousands of kilometres of fences and Trump says he will do likewise. In fact, they who exclude and reject the poor and the desperate are the most un-Christian of all and many of the refugees are migrants are themselves Christian.
 
It is the people of Spain that have opened their doors and given them welcome, shelter, and support. Such hospitality is a powerful act of human goodness, and encourages and enables strangers to feel welcome and to hope and believe in the goodness of human nature and to be open to peaceful coexistence.
 
Those who have rejected them and are deporting many more, have abandoned their international obligations and humanitarian duty. They are hardhearted and uncaring. But who cares about such hypocrisy and ignorant uncivilised attitudes? We all should care. 
 
Unless we open our hearts and welcome the refugees and migrants we will be closed to caring, compassion and love. We will hurt our family, our community and ourselves by selfish attitudes. By having loved for the stranger we will truly have a healthy unselfish love for all. 
 
Migrants are the throwaway people ignored by the better off nations whose forebears invaded and occupied their lands and made them their slaves, shipped 13 million of them to the Americas and then, in the modern era, made them into underdeveloped colonial dependents. They exploited their people, stole their raw materials and impoverished them. 
 
Today neo-colonial control perpetuates this exploitation, tolerates it and even encourages corrupt dictators and tyrants to allow the exploiters to continue oppressive business policies through multinational corporations. The lavish praise heaped by Trump on the most brutal dictator, Kim Jong-un, is just one more example.
 
Compassion, openness to the stranger, empathy, friendship and hospitality for the migrant and refugee has never been more necessary that today. 
 
It is a truly tragic and horrific situation in the Middle East and Africa where thousands of non-combatants, mostly women and children, have been bombed, burnt, mutilated, beheaded, raped and murdered. Many hundreds of girls and women have been kidnapped and sold as sex slaves by the ferocious merciless fighters of the terror groups; they have massacred many innocent people. 
 
That, and overwhelming poverty and corruption, is driving the migrant poor to look for a better life. Risking all on a rubber dingy in the Mediterranean is an act of utter desperation, courage and bravery in the struggle to escape evil and live again. 
 
We should give them that chance.
 
 
 
Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org