Each month the Society of the Holy Child (SHCJ), of which I am a member, posts a short (under 4 minutes) video meditation. This month’s connects the journey of the scholars to Bethlehem (celebrated in Western Christianity on January 6th) to the pilgrimage of refugees seeking shelter and to our own journeys this year. No matter how we interpret the original story and its participants, they give us a model for making our own pilgrimage this year, our own contribution within and to the Universe Story:
St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, is also famous for his concern for peace and his devotion to people suffering from poverty and injustice. Catholic Climate Covenant (CCC)’s theme for his feast day this year joins all of them: “Who Is My Neighbor in a Climate Threatened World?” It especially focuses on the interconnections among immigration, refugees, and climate change.
Many past blogs have stressed these problems, their interrelationships, and our place in the cosmos’ evolution. I feel no need to “convince” readers. Instead, I offer the outline of a brief prayer service that you can adapt in any way:
Leader: Let us join together to honor St. Francis, to remember the needs of our own times that Frances would surely care about, and ponder how his spirit and commitment can lead us to action. Laudato Si’ is permeated with St. Francis’ spirit; Pope Francis mentions it in the first paragraph of his 2015 encyclical: “St. Francis reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.” (par. 1)
Take turns reading from Laudato Si’:
“Authentic human development … presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and ‘take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.’ Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.” (par. 5)
“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.” (par. 25)
“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.” (par. 26)
“…everything is interconnected, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis….” (par. 137)
“… we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.” (par. 220)
How do you see climate change, immigration, and refugees as interconnected issues?
Imagine you are the head of a family forced to leave homeland due to flooding, drought, or lack of food in order to find housing and sustenance elsewhere. How would you feel? What would you miss?
Watch this 3:33 min. video
Links between migration and climate change – YouTube
How might each person here, or this group together, improve the situation for immigrants, refugees, and climate change this week? We CAN make a difference!
Together: Prayer for Creation and Migrants
May the Holy Family, who, Scripture tells us, fled to another country for safety, guide all those forced to leave their homes.
May St. Francis’ example of giving what he had to those in need inspire us to respond generously when so many must leave everything due to climate disasters.
May our own sense of interconnection with people and the entire planet bring us to take political action in this time of denial and rejection of climate change and migrating families.
May future generations have reason to be grateful to us for what we do, now, to stop the causes of migration, immigration, and climate change. Amen.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love,
Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there’s doubt true faith in You.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness only light,
And where there’s sadness ever joy.
Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive,
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life
Two Christmas stories ring out for our attention this Christmas season:
#1: We read that Joseph and his pregnant wife were forced from the security of their home in Nazareth because a selfish leader insisted that people travel to their ancestral home town for a census. Mary’s pregnancy exacerbated this disruption in their lives. And when they arrived after their challenging journey, they were turned away until someone (Who? Why? How?) found a spot fit for animals that they could share.
#2: According to Scripture, after Jesus was born, they had to travel again, this time as refugees fleeing for their lives. They endured the trip to Egypt, possibly not knowing the language, hoping to find fellow Israelites and raise their child in safety even though they were part of an unwanted minority.
Allowing for Bethlehem’s being overcrowded, Egypt’s not wanting foreigners, resources being scarce, and “the other” being judged a threat, one hopes that the travelers found some welcoming strangers along the way.
Since these stories wound up in Scripture (see note at the end), one assumes Mary and Joseph shared them with their son as he grew up. Perhaps they caused Jesus to be more alert to the messages in the Hebrew texts calling for aliens to be welcomed. Perhaps it was these memories that resulted in the famous passage in Matthew:
For I was hungry and you fed me … homeless and you gave me a room ….
This message is not political, nor is it exclusively Christian. Jesus did not belong to a political party nor sign on to “liberal” causes. Forget politics here. Jesus is telling us that caring for refugees is an essential duty, period. This message is in all religions, but practiced by some better than by others. “Nones” also care about other humans. Those who believe that “Nothing is itself without everything else,” as Thomas Berry said, know that we are intrinsically bound to each and every refugee.
First, remember that the numbers consist of real people with real names, loving families, and at least half are children. The total is over 65 million — so difficult to imagine! Comparisons might help: Lebanon has c. 6 million people; NYC has c. 8 1/2 million; the state of California has c. 40 million; Italy has c. 59 million.
What countries accept refugees?
Numbers vary each year, but the top host countries by number of refugees taken are Turkey and Pakistan. The top countries by percentage of their population in 2015 were Lebanon, with c. 210 refugees for every 1000 Lebanese inhabitants and Jordan with 90 refugees for every 1000 Jordanian inhabitants. (The US accepted 0.84 per thousand citizens! Our population is c. 326 million. How many would we take if we were as welcoming as Lebanon?)
Why do people leave their homes?
People flee due to war; famine; religious, sexual, and/or racial persecution; climate-related floods, droughts fires; physical threats from gangs and oppressive governments; stagnant economies. They have no choice but to risk leaving.
What risks must be considered before leaving everything behind?
Before leaving homes, families, work, possessions, language, dreams, religious communities, beloved land — refugees know their travels will be not just difficult but dangerous. Many die. (According to the International Organization for Migration, 22,500 migrants have died or disappeared since 2014.) Women are often raped. People can be sold into slavery and trafficked. Smugglers can take their money and leave them stranded or dead. At best they might face years in refugee camps. Food and shelter can be minimal. Those with “pre-existing conditions” face special hardships and lack of medication. Children lose their childhoods plus adequate nutrition and schooling during their best learning years.
If today you hear a “still, small voice” within, harden not your hearts. Here are some possible actions:
• Ask your members of Congress to accept and support migrant families here in the United States and around the world.
• Support the organizations that help refugees. Three of many:
– UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
– Catholics Confront Global Poverty (an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services)
– Catholic Refugee Services
• Ask your mayor/ city leader to establish a policy of welcoming those who contribute to the well-being of the city. (For Chicago’s “Welcoming City Ordinance,” see https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press…)
• Pope Francis asked that every Catholic parish be responsible for one refugee family. I am proud to say that my parish — St. Gertrude, Chicago — adopted two Rohingya families that waited eight years in a camp before being accepted in the US. We are eager to adopt more families, but since refugees are officially not welcome in the U.S., our right to practice our faith is denied!
• In January, be attentive to these opportunities to remember migrants and refugees — as well as those trafficked while attempting to migrate:
January: National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month. Also Poverty Awareness.
Jan. 1: World Peace Day. Pope Francis chose “Migrants and Refugees” as the theme.
Jan. 7 – 13: National Migration Week
Jan. 11: National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
Jan. 17: World Day of Migrants and Refugees
The plight of refugees is not limited to one month, but we can make a difference for them by acting during January.
Note: In the interest of updated theology, I add this excerpt from an article by John J. Collins, professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale Divinity School: “You have a text in the Book of Hosea that says, ‘Out of Egypt, I have called my son.’ In the Book of Hosea, the son is Israel. It means, ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt.’ If you now look at it, and you say, ‘But God’s son is the Messiah, and the Messiah is Jesus,’ well, Jesus must have been in Egypt, and we didn’t know about it. You get the story of the flight into Egypt, which gets into only one out of four gospels.”