“For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveler is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer.” — Pope Francis
We are called by Jesus to accompany the vulnerable and welcome the sojourner. At no other time has our moral responsibility to uphold these principles been greater. War, conflict, and persecution have forced millions to leave their homes, creating more refugees than at any other time in history. There are more than 70 million displaced persons worldwide, including more than 25 million refugees, over half of whom are children.
Refugee resettlement is the last resort for those who cannot return to their home country due to ongoing violence or reasons of personal safety, and who cannot stay in their first country of asylum. Since its inception in 1980, refugee resettlement has represented a bold, idealistic vision of what love and welcome looks like in practice: international agencies, national governments, and non-profit organizations all collaborating to ensure that those who are fleeing war, persecution, disaster, or any number of atrocities can be protected and live lives of dignity. Yet, in addition to repeated attempts to close our borders to those seeking asylum, reports indicate the current administration is considering cutting the number of refugee admissions to ZERO, which would have catastrophic consequences for refugees around the world waiting to reunite with family members or to simply find safety.
As a faith community, the loss of our capacity to help refugees would be devastating, and should incite us to action. Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and care for those who are marginalized and most vulnerable. Destroying the refugee resettlement system will only create further suffering among the very people we are called to love. Sometimes love and faith are difficult to put into practice, especially when those around us have taken a different stance. Living a life grounded in love and faith was never promised to be easy. But we must stay true to the tenets of our faith and not allow fear to dictate who we love and welcome.
We must remain ready and committed to receiving refugees and decry the policies that now prevent refugees from seeking and finding safety. For decades, people of many faith denominations have welcomed refugees into their homes, houses of worship, and communities. Refugees are powerful ambassadors of our nation’s founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom, and liberty and justice for all. Most importantly, the act of welcoming refugees is an expression of our faith and our belief in the dignity and value of every person.
Thank you to the many people who have contacted Catholic Charities with offers of support. Your compassion is deeply appreciated. To take action on this critical issue, please visit ccoc.us/welcome.
Michael F. Melara is the CEO of
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Syracuse.