I read this article on BBC this morning.
Immigration is something that is close to my heart. After all, my family immigrated to Canada in 1989. Now, being Caucasian no doubt made this transition period easier as we didn’t have to face the reality that is racism. That being said, immigrants and more specifically “illegal” immigrants are most often viewed as less-than human. Intruding on “our” land like bacteria might ones body. There is a small agricultural town near where I grew up. Every summer loads of workers from Mexico would go there to work on the farms. However, these large agricultural corporations almost always took advantage of these poor workers and made them stay in terrible conditions while working up to 14 hours a day (everyday) and receiving relatively little pay. About two summers ago there was a highly publicized raid on one of these farms and all of the migrants were “rescued” from the oppression they were suffering. What did the Canadian government do with them then? They put them in jail a holding facility before sending them back to Mexico. All in all I found this to be a terribly sad situation. We’re not dealing with animals or criminals here. These are human beings for fucks sake crying out loud! The last two summers I’ve spent over in Europe in an attempt to journey alongside of the Roma (gypsies) and refugees (predominantly from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq). The attitudes of most of the French people (including the government) towards these folks is appalling. A Roma friend of ours named Daniel was sleeping in his car with his brother one night and a group of French youth attacked the car with Molotov-cocktails. Daniel suffered third-degree burns over most of his body (we saw the scars). His brother died in the attack. I probably don’t even need to say anything about the situation in the U.S. The attitude there towards immigrants is pretty horrendous as well with U.S government officials making dehumanizing public statements about “illegals”.
In the darkness and evil of our attitudes towards “the other” it is refreshing to hear Pope Benedict XVI proclaim the gospel:
“An immigrant is a human being, different only in where he comes from, his culture and tradition…He is a person to respect and with rights and responsibilities, and should be respected particularly in the working world where there is a temptation to exploit…We have to go to the heart of the problem, of the significance of the human being…Violence must never be a means to solve difficulties…The problem is a human one, and I invite everyone to look in the face of those nearby and see their soul, their history and their life and say to themselves: it is a man and God loves him as God loves me.”
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh…But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep,” (Luke 6:20ff.).
May God have mercy on us all for the ways in which we dehumanize and humiliate our brothers and sisters.
*For those interested I’ve published here a paper I wrote on Liberation Theology.