Do Not Let Injustice Dehumanize The Oppressed

FrancisQuitoRThe world is full of strife. We are called to compassion, to help those who suffer as a result of evil. When there is oppression, we are to strive for liberation; when there is injustice, we are to render right judgement and install justice in the world:

And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart” (Zech. 7:8-10 RSV).

We must not devise evils, instead, we must seek to remedy the evils in the world. When structures of evil form, we must work to destroy them and set up alternatives which work for the benefit of all.  We cannot allow ourselves to sin by omission, ignoring social evils because they benefit us, nor can we deny the responsibility we have to those who have been unjustly harmed by the social structures we have follow as a society.

The strangers who come to us for refuge cannot be rejected. Those who have an abundance of the goods of the earth have it to be used for the sake of all. Those nations which have such an abundance are expected, therefore, to share with those who are not so fortunate; this is especially true when we find out how such abundance came to be, when the history of its accumulation shows a history of oppression so that those who have abundance gained it at the expense of others.  When we look at the United States, its role in modern history, it is obvious that we cannot ignore and avoid our duty to the world; it comes to us as the consequence of our actions.

It is therefore a great shame, indeed, a great evil, when the United States fails its duties to the world, seeking only to justify keeping what it has, not only at the expense of others, but at the expense of those the United States harmed in the past.  The words of the prophet Zechariah to Israel for their failure to follow justice should serve as a warning of what is to come to the United States if it does not repent and help restore justice to the world:

But they refused to hearken, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts like adamant lest they should hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate” (Zec. 7: 11-14 RSV).

On the day that Pope Francis spoke to the world, saying that leaders need to welcome migrants, to treat them right and not with fear our hatred, but as humans with rights of their own,  the Trump administration has decided it will send over 200,000 Salvadorian refugees and their families, living in the United States for well over a decade, making it their home, back to El Salvador, leading many of them to their untimely and cruel death. As Ishaan Tharoor indicated, Trump continues in his inhumane cruelty on immigrants contradicting the so-called Christian values Trump and his supporters claim to uphold.

Pope Francis is very concerned about the political climate in the world, and what is coming out of it, as can be seen in his Message for the 51st World Day of Peace:

Most people migrate through regular channels. Some, however, take different routes, mainly out of desperation, when their own countries offer neither safety nor opportunity, and every legal pathway appears impractical, blocked or too slow.

Many destination countries have seen the spread of rhetoric decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals, and by doing so demeans the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God. Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being.

All indicators available to the international community suggest that global migration will continue for the future. Some consider this a threat. For my part, I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace.

There is, therefore, a sharp contrast between the Christian spirit of peace and justice which seeks to help the world instead of justify its evils, with the system being put in place in the United States under the Trump administration which seeks to reify power while dehumanizing all those who do not have it. The threat to peace which comes as a result of such ideology is real. Dehumanizing those who need humane treatment can only lead to further justification to harming them, until at last, many will seek a final solution which is as evil and cruel now as it was in the 20th century.  Scripture reminds us again and again, those who follow God must follow him in his desire, which is the desire for justice:

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.  Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.  (Deut. 10:17-19 RSV)

If God is for the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant, who is it that stands against them? If we welcome strangers, we welcome God, as Jesus indicated: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”  (Matt. 25:35b RSV), but if we deny them, if we are hostile to them, if we dehumanize them, then we have rejected God from our lives. And then, with the injustice that follows, we will have created the conditions for own suffering and eventual unseemly demise.

 

[Image=Pope Francis by  La Cancillería de Ecuador https://www.flickr.com/people/10021639@N05 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

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