The world seems to be witnessing increasing levels of violence, fear, and hatred that challenge us each day. There are ongoing debates about how or whether to welcome immigrants and refugees to the United States; news headlines remind us about the plight of Syria and about the horrors of the Islamic State.
In such times, talk about mercy may seem more like wishful thinking. But mercy matters – now more than ever.
A Catholic priest who fled to the U.S. from war-torn Vietnam as a youth has written to President Trump, offering to surrender his American citizenship so that the president could confer it on a Syrian refugee, who would be barred under Trump’s controversial order banning travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries.
The Rev. Chuong Hoai Nguyen, a member of the Salesian order, also told Trump he would ask his religious superiors for permission to go live and work in one of the seven countries on the banned list.
Safety is defined in the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus as abiding in God’s sense of justice —“not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.” Justice is love and love is behaving out of fairness to all — even those we see as a risk. We cannot expect to be in safety unless we treat others as we wish them to treat us.
While the ban remains inactive after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the U.S. government’s request to resume travel restrictions, legal challenges by Trump’s administration will continue. Christians must join in solidarity with our refugee brothers and sisters and continue to denounce both the ideology and methodology of the ban.
When our desire for security is so great that it diminishes our humanity and our capacity, or willingness, to see the world through the eyes of another, we lose a precious part of who we were designed to be. Our hearts are hardened, calcified.
“We were wrong.”
That’s how former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns summarized one of the most notorious episodes in the history of American refugee policy. In 1939, the MS Saint Louis carried 937 Jewish refugees towards our shores. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration denied the ship access to the U.S. and forced it to return to Europe. A third of the passengers died at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
The draft text of the order, like much of Trump's campaign rhetoric, uses the language of domestic security, couched in tear of terrorism. This is dramatically out of proportion with the actual statistics on crime among immigrants and refugees, when in reality, newcomers to the U.S. commit far less crime than those born here.
Withstanding some unforeseen breakthrough, Power will not succeed in persuading Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime in Syria. Her plea is passionate, but likely not a winning argument. The best arguments don’t always win. But I believe I know why she still fights so hard, and it’s a lesson for all of us who care.
When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act on Dec. 16, the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.
But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.
“This is one of the most difficult days in Aleppo’s history,” Ibrahim Abdul Laith told Sojourners over a series of WhatsApp voice notes. “We endured difficulties under the shelling, and under the siege, but even though the situation was difficult, we were fighting for our city.”
Later in the messages, his voice took on a somber tone.
“Now we are being asked to leave.”
On Dec. 19 the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Ankara, Turkey, reports Reuters. The ambassador was giving a speech at an art gallery when a gunman fatally shot him. Three other people were also wounded and the gunman appears to have been killed.
“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” the gunman shouted after the shooting.
On Dec. 19 the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to send UN observers to Aleppo to oversee the evacuation of civilians, reports Al Jazeera. UN observers will travel soon to Aleppo as will personnel who can administer aid.
“For the first time in numerous attempts to get unanimity on the situation on Aleppo, all of the 15 UN Security Council members have supported this resolution to send UN monitors in Aleppo,” said journalist Mike Hanna.
Many people are still reeling from the election results and become more appalled every day with the appointments and behavior of the President -elect Donald Trump.
And many of our Sojourners readers are asking themselves and us: What can I do?
The politics going on now are indeed beyond our control — but we can control what we do with our own faith and with our own actions.
On Dec. 14 buses that were meant to evacuate citizens and rebel fighters out of Aleppo, Syria, after a raid and massacre by the Syrian government, left — empty, reports the New York Times. Gunfire has been heard by people who are still in the city, and it is believed that a ceasefire established on Dec. 13 — between the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters — has dissolved.
These new cardinals include prelates from 11 dioceses and six countries that have never before had a cardinal, and from places far outside the traditional European orbit of ecclesiastical influence: Albania, for example, plus the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.
But the real surprise in these picks, as in past appointments, is that they came as a complete surprise to many of the new cardinals themselves, and to the pope’s closest collaborators.
World Relief, a Christian humanitarian group, resettled twice as many refugees to the U.S. in September as it had in August, an increase that foretells a more robust resettlement pace for the nation in general.
The evangelical nonprofit — one of the nine groups entrusted by the federal government to resettle refugees — found homes for approximately 1,400 people in September. That’s about 14 percent of the total refugees it resettled in the past year.
Pope Francis said those bombing civilians in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo will be “accountable to God” for their actions as he renewed his appeals for peace amid an intensifying civil war in that country.
It also emerged on Sept. 28 that the pontiff has asked a Catholic charity to auction the cars used on a recent trip to Poland and use the proceeds to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The pope’s emotional appeal for peace in Syria came during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square in which he voiced his heartfelt support and prayers for the people of Aleppo.
On Sept. 21, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement claiming that refugees “pose grave danger, like the Iraqi refugee with ties to ISIS who was arrested…after he plotted to set off bombs at two malls in Houston.”
This announcement comes months after Texas lost a court battle in June, in which the state attempted to keep Syrian refugees out entirely.
Pope Francis met with refugees and leaders of religious faiths including Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus who joined him for a day of prayer for peace in Assisi, home of his namesake, the 12th-century friar St. Francis.
But it was the migrants he invited to join him for lunch on Sept. 20 who captured the headlines and illustrated the tangible impact of war and conflict.
WATCH: Images from the protest and interview with speaker Mark Charles.
The California judge who sentenced Brock Turner to only six months after a three-count sexual assault conviction has voluntarily stepped aside and is transferring to the civil division.
“It’s part of a bigger problem,” Padre Isasmendi says. “It’s part of marginalization.”