Refugees and Immigrants at Christmas — December 25, 2017

Salvadoran nativityOn Christmas Eve, Pope Francis preached on the plight of today’s refugees and immigrants:

“By decree of the Emperor, Mary and Joseph found themselves forced to set out. They had to leave their people, their home and their land, and to undertake a journey in order to be registered in the census. This was no comfortable or easy journey for a young couple about to have a child: they had to leave their land. At heart, they were full of hope and expectation because of the child about to be born; yet their steps were weighed down by the uncertainties and dangers that attend those who have to leave their home behind.

“Then they found themselves having to face perhaps the most difficult thing of all. They arrived in Bethlehem and experienced that it was a land that was not expecting them. A land where there was no place for them.”

Matthew 2:13-14: Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt …

Today’s families still flee violence. From Central America, they come to the United States, seeking shelter, and finding even less welcome than Mary and Joseph found in Bethlehem. Now U.S. immigration authorities plan to jail parents and take away their children, breaking up the families as a way to discourage refugees from coming to this country:

On December 21, the New York Times reported that the Trump Administration Considers Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration. Some families have already been forcibly separated. The policy targets Central American refugees. Its purpose is to inflict further terror on people who have fled their homes in Central America to protect their children from violence and death – and by so terrorizing these refugees, to induce them to stay away from our borders.

Leviticus 19:34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

In contrast to unwelcoming national policies, an Iowa family shows how to love the strangers among us:

”Jennifer Galdames fled violence in Guatemala three years ago to rejoin her mother in Iowa. Her stepfather has been deported and her mother has returned voluntarily to Central America. Jennifer, 17, has applied for legal residency as a minor. As the immigration courts determine her future, the Aharts have opened their home so she can finish school in Des Moines. They’re also raising money to help her save for college. As of last week, the Aharts were approaching half of their $10,000 fundraising goal at their youcaring.com site.”

When they find refuge, those strangers give back to the United States. Winnie Bulaya took her children and fled from the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where her husband was killed. After years in a refugee camp, they landed in Indianapolis in 2010. Now she gives back.

“When you run, you save your life, you run only,” Bulaya said….

“It was like a dream,” Bulaya says seven years later, in halting English. “We don’t know the place we are going, but what do we know is God is with us. He protect us.” …

“Blessed by the kindness of strangers when she arrived in Indianapolis, she has been paying it forward ever since — organizing toy drives at Christmas, food donations at Thanksgiving and clothing giveaways throughout the year.

“More than that, she helps new residents learn to navigate life in a new world.”

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.

The Texas Observer reported on The Faces of Trump’s Immigration Crackdown in 2017:

“They’ve arrested immigrants outside shelters, in courthouses and hospitals and during routine check-ins. They’ve arrested mothers with multiple citizen children, “Dreamers” with valid work permits, kids falsely suspected of gang involvement, women seeking protective orders, parents transporting a baby for surgery and even a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy.”

That is not the welcome of Christmas. The rejection of refugees and immigrants, the name-calling and racism, should have no place in the mouths of those who profess to be Christian. The New York Times summed up the Christmas Eve message of Pope Francis:

“Recalling that Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger because “there was no place for them in the inn,” Francis highlighted the biblical story in a present day in which the White House has restricted travel for people from predominantly Muslim countries, the Myanmar military has carried out ethnic cleansing against a stateless Rohingya minority, and wars, human trafficking and the indifference of wealthy nations have resulted in millions of families languishing in squalid refugee camps.”

The Pope’s own words call for another way:

“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones. In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.

“Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room, are the first to embrace the One who comes to give all of us our document of citizenship. The One who in his poverty and humility proclaims and shows that true power and authentic freedom are shown in honouring and assisting the weak and the frail….

“In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.

“Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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