A number of years ago, I spent time in a small rural town in the U.S. state of Nebraska. Like many other cities in the American prairies, the city experienced a large influx of immigrants seeking work on one of the neighbouring farms or in the local meat packing plant. Life was difficult for many of the women and men who fled terrible conditions in their home countries. Despite the many hardships they faced, the community formed close bonds with each other as they worked to form a new life.
I had very little understanding of the plight of immigrants before I moved to that town. Other than a few people I met while in university and the occasional story in the paper, I simply was unaware of the conditions that thousands of people face each day.
As a member of the pastoral care team at the local Catholic parish, I quickly got to know many of the families who traveled so far. One of my colleagues was a religious sister who devoted herself to being with the immigrant community. She often invited me to go with her to meet with the families and hear their stories.
I was deeply moved by those visits. I learned quickly that despite our many differences, we shared much in common as well. Like me, the women and men were in search of new life, better conditions for their children and the passion to make a living for themselves. Through those visits, I got to know the immigrants as human beings and not as mere numbers as spoken about by news media and politicians.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I read Pope Francis’ words to the assembly gathered for the Eucharist in the border town of Juarez, Mexico. Francis reminded us that immigrants “are our brothers and sisters, who are being expelled by poverty and violence, drug trafficking and organized crime.” They are not mere objects or the villains that some politicians and political pundits make them out to be. They are human beings, our brothers and sisters.
Francis challenges us to do all we can to support immigrants and refugees and to fight for their justice. As people of faith, we have a moral imperative to serve all God’s people. Moreover, we must seek life for all, for that is what God yearns and desires for every human person. Indeed, Pope Francis’ very first words of his homily were from a letter written by the Church Father Irenaeus: “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”
Although we may not share many of the immigration issues the U.S. experiences, our own immigration system has not always been just and right for all people. And despite our government’s commitment to welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees, we have much to do to make our communities places of welcome and support for those seeking to build a new life today. Pope Francis’ words are as much for us as they are for Americans and Mexicans. We all have a obligation to our sisters and brothers. The question is, what are we going to do today to help them?
-Don Beyers, Relationship Manager and Acquisitions Editor