There is a spectrum of responses to the global crisis of refugees fleeing life threatening violence and struggling to keep themselves safe and alive. On the one side, you’ve got the Trump administration, which has gone so far as to recently explicitly dial back protections for asylum seekers. On the other side, you’ve got Pope Francis, who in some of his latest comments about the issue has called for adherents of his faith to explicitly open their communities to those fleeing calamity in their homelands.
Those comments came during a special mass that he held to honor migrants. The mass marked the fifth anniversary of the pope visiting the Italian island of Lampedusa, which in its position in the Mediterranean Sea has served at times as a prime destination for refugees fleeing Africa.
He told those in attendance:
‘Before the challenge of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy.’
He had invited migrants and their family members to the mass.
Holy Mass for Migrants ①#Pope: The Lord promises refreshment/freedom to all the oppressed of our world, but he needs us to fulfill his promise … Above all, he needs our hearts to show his merciful love towards the least, the outcast, the abandoned, the marginalized. pic.twitter.com/lZdJ4A9FSd
— Guido Marini Fanpage (@guidomarini_fan) July 6, 2018
The harsh Mediterranean has claimed the lives of over 1,000 migrants already in 2018, meaning that his comments bemoaning the ongoing crisis and calling on people to do more are certainly on point.
As he put it, the global response up to this point “even if at times generous, has not been enough, and we continue to grieve thousands of deaths.”
Pope Francis has drawn attention to the migrant crisis before, and he has also gone so far as to call on communities to open their doors to migrants in the past.
In January, he commented:
‘Local communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived will disturb the established order, will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up… The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection.’
The fear that he’s called attention to is not only relevant in answering the question of what to do for migrants trying to make their way into Europe. That same sort of fear has defined the current U.S. federal government’s response to immigration for what’s approaching years now. A simple call for communities to be more open to the needs of migrants puts Pope Francis at odds with the current president of the United States, Donald Trump.
Trump came into office promising to put a wall up in between the United States and Mexico, a promise that has yet to be fulfilled and may never be. More recently, his administration has undertaken steps like the aforementioned dialing back of provisions for asylum seekers and the separation of families once they try to cross the nation’s southern border. Some of those families remain separated at this time.
The policies are all part of Trump’s ambition to mold the United States to be more to his and his base’s liking no matter, apparently, the human cost. He’s been at odds with Pope Francis more explicitly in the past over the issue of migration, with the religious leader having at one point commented:
‘A person who only thinks about building walls… is not Christian.’
It’s not as though that criticism has deterred Trump.
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