Refugees Are People, Not a Crisis

APTOPIX-Hungary-Migra_HoroSometimes the horrors in the news are so overwhelming that I’m left speechless. This is how I feel now—have been feeling for months—about what is being called Europe’s “refugee crisis.”

Refugee crisis. Encapsulating massive human suffering in those two simple words strikes me as demeaning: a slap in the face of every refugee from the endless wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya….

I imagine a woman who was evicted from the French refugee camp at Calais, sleepless with worry over the sick toddler she holds in her arms. I imagine her staring at me in numb despair when I read her a news story about “the refugee crisis.” I hear her scream back, “I’m not your crisis; I’m a person, a person who is pouring all my energy and money into trying to save my family from the brutalities of war and the indignities of being classified as a low-class refugee.”

I have no answer for her. I share her pain—to the extent that it’s possible for a comfortable U.S. citizen to share the pain of a despairing country-less person. But I don’t have the words to express my sharing. [Read more…]

The Odyssey: Homer’s Retort to Current U.S. Policy

Rubens_The_Feast_of_Achelous_1615Are you as numb to news of war as I am?

We the American public are so used to hearing that our country is acting militarily in yet another place on the globe that we don’t even question whether we should be arming the Saudi Arabian forces in Yemen or “supporting” Syrian so-called moderate rebels.

We’re still fighting (and killing civilians in wedding parties and now even a hospital) in Afghanistan. And, incredibly, we’re back in Iraq: “training” (yet again) government forces. Aren’t they trained by now?

At least there’s a bit of public outrage over the recent disclosures about our drone “kill lists” in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan… [Read more…]

It’s Advent and I’m Done Waiting

This is not an Advent post. There are enough of those out there. Writing of waiting, of expectation, of a light entering the darkness, of hope. I have heard them all before. I am done waiting.

In class, we were talking about emotions. I teach English to refugees from East Africa. Per usual, they were quick to talk about what makes them feel joyous, but were silent when it came to the negative emotions.

What makes you feel sad? I asked, not thinking about the great chasms of human experience that separate me from the class. A man who comes every day and sits in the front, quiet and smart and well read, speaks up. His eyes are wide, and his voice is low.

[Read more…]

Israel at 65: Caught in a Homeland Trap

“People caught in a homeland-trap,” writes the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai in “National Thoughts,” a poem from the mid-1960s.

The homeland (Israel) is a trap? In the eyes of hundreds of thousands of refugees who, to escape persecution, fled there from Russia, Poland, Germany, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, and…? In the eyes of the many American Jews who made aliyah (rose up! immigrated to) first to the British Mandate of Palestine, later to the modern State of Israel?

I’m watching The Gatekeepers. An Academy award nominee for best feature-length documentary, The Gatekeepers features interviews of six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, the secret service charged with overseeing Israel’s war on terror—Palestinian and Jewish terror. [Read more…]

In Memoriam: Joshua Casteel

I’m guessing that most of you haven’t heard of Joshua Casteel—but you should have. Casteel passed away in August after a short battle with a very aggressive form of lung cancer. He was only thirty-two.

An Iraq war veteran, Casteel served as an interrogator at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison shortly after the abuse scandal rocked the US military. He worked to ferret out intelligence that would help US forces capture and kill al Qaeda kingpins and foil the plots of jihadists.

I met Joshua in South Bend, Indiana at a conference sponsored by the Catholic Peace Fellowship, an organization started by Jim Forest and Tom Cornell, both of whom worked closely with Dorothy Day in her ministry of hospitality to the homeless.

I remember sitting down at one of the long tables during the lunch break just as Joshua was being introduced. He had a bit of a hipster vibe about him—flannel shirt, beard and black glasses—but there was no irony or cynicism in his posture or his voice as he recited the Magnificat: [Read more…]


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