Fear not: God is in every refugee

Families around the globe are fleeing their homeland, just like the Holy Family fled Bethlehem to escape King Herod’s bloody regime. This unprecedented migration has special poignancy as Christmas approaches, a joyous time when families reunite, something not possible for many displaced from their native land.

In our current state of fear, we underplay the fact that the expectant Mary with her husband, Joseph, were turned away from the Inn. We overlook the slaughter of the Holy Innocents — and that the infant Jesus was spared their fate only through the hurried flight into Egypt where the Holy Family lived for years as what today we would call “political refugees.”

This is the reality that many families face this Christmas — extreme and profound suffering many here in our country have never experienced. More than 60 million refugees and internally displaced persons are living in our world. No home, and no inn to accept them.

We cannot give into the fear and retreat into an isolationist mindset. Without reservation, the enormity of what happened on September 11, 2001 and in Paris last month should raise our awareness of security concerns. However, these concerns should not be used as a smoke screen to justify heartless and senseless polices that would close our doors to victims of terrorism as the Bethlehem innkeepers closed their doors to the Holy Family that first Christmas.

We are a land of immigrants, a land of open and unbridled horizons for those willing to partake. The United States of America is better than these merciless policies. This is defining time for our country. Will we save these innocent families fleeing from the violence and beheadings, or will we close the door and leave them easy prey for terrorists set on ending their lives for no particular reason? One hundred and twenty-nine years ago the people of France gifted the United States of America the Statue of Liberty. It was a gift meant to signify what was best about the United States and Americans as a people; our courage in defending freedom and welcoming the stateless from war-torn countries. Let us not let the massacre in Paris eliminate our history of being the protector of the innocents.

As the Holy Father said to the United States Congress in September: “We should respond in a way that is always human, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”

We should see the refugees as individual people with inherent dignity, worthy of great respect, rather than problems worthy of contempt. By accepting these women, men and children, our nation can continue to be a haven for those — who like Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus — still flee from the modern day Herods.



CNS photo/Sedat/Suna, EPA: Syrian refugees wait on the Syrian side of the border near Sanliurfa, Turkey, June 10. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, says the United States should welcome Syrian refugees and work for peace.