Shared from the 6/17/2018 San Antonio Express eEdition

BELIEF

Support the poor and the outcast on Refugee Day

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Robin Jerstad / For the E-N

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller.

In a letter to President Donald Trump prior to his inauguration, Pope Francis wrote: “Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.”

Pope Francis was referring to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus from the Gospel of Luke. Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, lay by the gate of a rich man, hoping to get a few scraps from his table. The rich man paid him no mind. After both men died, the beggar “was carried away by angels” while the rich man found himself in a place of torment.

As World Refugee Day on Wednesday approaches, I reflect on the Holy Father’s letter, this parable and how our nation can better aid the marginalized and widen the opening for “the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.”

Our country is known for its great compassion and service to those who flee their homes seeking safety. But there have been times when we have refused to offer Lazarus any scraps from our table and turned our backs on modern-day Lazaruses, such as refugees. I fear that one day we, too, will have to explain why we did not do more.

There are many who answer the call to serve. Organizations such as Catholic Relief Services support refugees who have fled Myanmar and South Sudan, providing them shelter, education and food. Catholic Charities supports recently resettled refugees in our communities. In their experience, almost no one wants to leave their home. Whether individuals or families fleeing war in Syria or gang violence in Central America, they often choose to undertake a dangerous journey only when they see no other choice.

This work is important to Christian faith and rooted in the most deeply held belief that we encounter Christ in every person, especially the rejected stranger. Apart from the moral responsibility to serve our brothers and sisters, refugees contribute much to our communities and society. Too often, here and abroad, helping refugees is seen as a zero-sum game. This could not be further from the truth. Think of those who came to this country seven decades ago, fleeing both the horrors of World War II and the oppression of communism. They brought immense contributions in science and the arts; in all aspects of our life. The U.S. gave them freedom, and they enriched our communities.

As a nation, we have the right and responsibility to control our border and enforce immigration law. But we must do so with compassion and care and not fear or hate.

Pope Francis urges us to encounter the poor and the outcast with compassion. Such teaching is found not only in the Gospels but throughout the Old Testament, the Quran and many other sacred texts. It comes from the basic tenet that we should treat others as we would like to be treated. And if you and your family were the victims of war or some other disaster, would you not hope for a loving neighbor to offer you shelter and food?

On World Refugee Day, let us stand with refugees around the world yearning to breathe free. But let us also urge our leaders both in our communities and in Washington to maintain our leadership as a generous and welcoming nation.

The Most Rev. Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

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