A simple proposition put simply
Amid the ethnical, logistical and policy morass that is the global refugee crisis – and in an atmosphere in which conservative commentators and mealy-mouthed nationalist leaders have barked about ‘illegals’ and ‘economic refugees’ – it has taken Pope Francis to distill the argument down to its simplest incarnation.
Speaking to a combined sitting of the US House of Representatives and Senate, which included politicians who have said the US should keep out Syrians and others who fled their countries, and should deport more of the undocumented immigrants who are already here; the pope said the solution to the refugee crisis is for other countries to follow the ‘golden rule’: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
Blindingly obvious it might seem but his sentiments have been signally missing in the debate that has raged around the globe over mass migrations of refugees.
His mention in Congress of the ‘golden rule’ earned a standing ovation.
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War,” he said.
“This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?”
He went on to call for people to see refugees and other immigrants as human beings in need of compassion, rather than focus on the resources it would take to help them.
“We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation,” the Pope said.
He said the world needed “to respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal”.
“We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome,” the Pope said.
Some organisations and lawmakers – including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – are calling on President Barack Obama to allow more Syrians to resettle in the US, along with more refugees from other countries, of which 70,000 have been admitted in the past few years.
The Obama administration announced this week that refugee admission numbers will rise to 85,000 next fiscal year and 100,000 in the 2017 fiscal year.
But other members of Congress oppose the plan, either for espoused national security reasons – even though all refugees go through an extensive screening process – or because they say the US doesn’t have the resources.
The pope isn’t likely to change the minds of people like Presidential contender Donald Trump and Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama – both vehement opponents of allowing in more refugees or immigrants.
“It’s always dangerous for church leaders to start opining on complex matters of which they haven’t had a chance to learn over the years,” Sessions told the media this week.
And Trump has advocated building a wall to keep displaced people from Latin America out of the US.
Along with refugees, Pope Francis has in the past called for the US to be compassionate to unauthorised immigrants, and in particular the unaccompanied children apprehended along the border in high numbers last year.
The Pope accepted a letter last week from five-year-old Sofi Cruz, who asked him to help undocumented parents of US citizens, like herself.
“The people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” the Pope said.
If the Pope’s ‘golden rule’ comment sums up the moral simplicity of the migration issue, Donald Trump’s recent comments about ‘Mexican criminals’ and ‘African-Americans lacking spirit’ show how far the debate has sunk into inanity and ludicrousness.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist