In last week’s editorial, we urged readers to follow Pope Francis’ example and offer prayers for the new president. We quoted from the pope’s letter to President Trump written after his inauguration.
“Under your leadership,” Pope Francis said in his letter, “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.”
Within the first week of his presidency, however, Trump issued an executive order that contradicts a concern “for the poor, the outcast and those in need who … stand before our door.”
The Jan. 27 memorandum, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” bans all citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. The seven countries include Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
It also suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and reduces the number of refugees admitted from around the world by more than half. The current refugee limit set by Barack Obama was 110,000. The new limit will be 50,000.
The order’s hasty implementation left hundreds of foreign travelers, people who work and study in the United States and some with dual citizenship, in limbo last weekend, unable to enter the country. It also triggered protests at airports and cities around the country.
What began as an attempt to restrict the entry of terrorists into the country ended up causing confusion and cruelly deflating the hopes of a new life for many refugees.
It also spawned an outcry from church leaders, concerned that refugees fleeing religious extremism, especially in Syria, were banned from any type of U.S. support.
Several U.S. bishops, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, issued statements condemning the order.
“The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values,” said Cardinal Cupich Jan. 29.
On Monday, Jan. 30, the president and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling on all Catholics to “join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.”
In their statement, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president, said the bond between Christians and Muslims was founded “on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice.” They said that the church “will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.”
The threat of terrorism is a reality in today’s world, but turning our backs on people who seek refuge from real persecution and terrorism is not the way to respond. It’s an excuse that goes against Jesus’ teachings and, in the words of Pope Francis, turns us into hypocrites.
“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help,” he said last October. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”
As Christians we should follow Pope Francis’ example — and the example of U.S. bishops — and stand in solidarity with refugees. May our stature as a nation, as Pope Francis told Trump last week, “continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need.”
We can also voice concerns with our elected leaders in Washington, D.C. Here are the names and telephone numbers (calls are more effective than emails and letters) of lawmakers who represent us.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (202) 224-5653 and Sen. Ron Johnson, (202) 224-5323; Rep. Sean Duffy, (202) 225-3365; Rep. Mike Gallagher, (202) 225-5665.