Over the last several years we heard and seen much discussion, debate, news and film regarding immigrants, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. For some of us, this may appear to be something fairly new and disturbing. Upon reflection, this is nothing new. People moving from place to place is in our DNA.
Anthropologists tell us that early homo sapiens (that’s us) were constantly on the move, following the seasons for food. Whenever a group became too big (probably more than 50), some would split off and form new groups. It was this type of migration that enabled homo sapiens to populate the far corners of the Earth — even far-off islands. Our sacred texts tell us the story of the Exodus — a whole nation moving on a promise of something better. Our own nation’s history is the story of immigrants, migrants all seeking something. The Puritans, the covered wagons heading West, all on the move — it’s in our DNA.
Have any of you relocated for a better job? That’s what motivates migrant workers. Have any of you moved to avoid paying higher property taxes? That’s what an asylum seeker feels. Have any of you moved to avoid unsafe neighborhoods? That’s what a refugee feels. Whenever and for whatever reason, when we move we become immigrants hoping for something different. We hope for acceptance in our new place.
We find this striving not only in our biological DNA but also in our human spirit. We all thirst for our common God’s Justice. President Franklin Roosevelt, on the eve of World War II, articulated this striving in his Four Freedoms Speech when he said “people everywhere in the world” seek freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. Striving for these four freedoms is embedded in our common God’s Justice.
While the movement of people throughout history and throughout the world has always been with us, we must be honest and look to how we have responded to the striving of others. Of course, this is not an issue just for us in America. Recently there were reports of anti-immigrant riots in South Africa. Debates have taken place in the British Parliament. France continues to wrestle with this issue on their national stage. How do we respond?
Let’s face facts: most of us have it pretty good in the United States, in Indiana and in Northwest Indiana. We can express our feelings vocally. We can worship wherever we choose (or choose not to). there are no food shortages, and we live without fear.
However, we do live with a great deal of anxiety. Do we hold on to these freedoms only for ourselves or those who agree with us? Do we act the miser with these freedoms?
Throughout our history, we have had a reactive policy; we continue to respond to the latest "threat."
We, as people of faith, need to come together to discuss and discern how we can help people of the world enjoy those freedoms. We need to leave a legacy for our children and our children’s children to dispense our common God’s justice.
This legacy should be filled with mercy, compassion, respect and love of our common God. It should be a legacy of how we welcome the strangers in our midst, not of who we let join us. Let us never be misers with God’s justice but dispense that justice to all of the children of God who are searching, no matter where they come from.