By Maria Fischer •
“They look like illegal migrants,” seems to say the border official at one of these borders crowded by hundreds of migrants and refugees, who, according to public opinion and even some emerging political parties choose “our country first,” threaten the culture, well-being and security of leading countries. Someone like the person who is approaching this border from the other side: a man in shabby clothes, a woman who looks far too young to already have a child and who now presents her baby who is just weeks old, as if to say: ‘Let us in, for the love of God and for this baby who is afraid and hungry. —
The 600 people on the Aquarius at least did not drown, they only suffered days without knowing whether anyone would receive these migrants that nobody wanted.
No, really, we cannot. We have already received our quota, besides of which, why do they leave their country and want to live in ours? Is there really a war in their home country? Is there persecution? Or just hunger?
This daily scenario could be on the border between Mexico and the United States, or on the borders of Hungary, Austria, now Italy, and who knows, perhaps soon also in Germany … or on the border of Egypt, 2000 years ago. They arrive as refugees or immigrants, fleeing war, persecution, hunger, poverty. Each of them is a story and a mystery. Just like once upon a time, so did Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
When will the order come from Trump or Seehofer or Kurz to forbid the the figures of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus on their donkey fleeing to Egypt in nativity scenes?
The need for a change of mentality
“This demands a change in mindset: we must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society. For this to happen, our basic approach must be “to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her,” said Pope Francis, who has advocated for migrants since his visit to Lampedusa, and since his important address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and his recent message on the occasion of the recent “second Holy See-Mexico conference on international migration” on 14 June.
“Finally, I would like to point out that the issue of migration is not simply one of numbers, but of persons, each with his or her own history, culture, feelings and aspirations… These persons, our brothers and sisters, need “ongoing protection”, independently of whatever migrant status they may have. Their fundamental rights and their dignity need to be protected and defended. Particular concern must be shown for migrant children and their families, those who are victims of human trafficking rings, and those displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters and persecution. All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of “comfortable and silent complicity” that worsens their helplessness; they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion and devotion.”
Thankfully, 2000 years ago Egypt did not act like so many Christian countries act today.
Thank you, Pope Francis, for showing us once again that “immigrants” are not numbers, or even a threat, but human beings who need us to choose on the side of life.
Original: Spanish, 17 June. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa