Responding to Refugees: The Year of Mercy

After the events of this weekend, Pope Francis has declared that the actions of the Islamic State are that of a Third World War.  The Pope stated that the killing of 128 people and seriously wounding over 350 people in the name of God is blasphemy, and that there is no “religious or human justification for these things.” Paris will never be the same again.

We can all agree that everything about this situation is terrifying and corrupt. But, it seems like there is little else that we can agree on.

Some say to bomb the entire territory that ISIS inhabits. Some say we need to deny entry to the refugees, while others argue that the refugees need us now more than ever. Determining our response is no easy task.

Pope Francis has declared 2016 The Year of Mercy, and I cannot believe that this is a coincidence. Moving into the new year, we are faced with new tragedy. This tragedy calls for a response.

As humans, we are here for one purpose: to get to heaven and to help others get to heaven, while loving and serving God. Catholic teachings promise that if we do this wholeheartedly, grace will come.

Today, this tragedy seems unfathomable. There have been countless reactions to this tragedy: fear, anger, despair, vengeance. Yet, we all seem to forget the emotion that God embraces over all others: mercy.

In the Beatitudes, God promises us endless mercy after this life if we simply show mercy to other humans around us. This is asking almost nothing of us –  the world we live in is so limited and short compared to the life to come.

God also tells us hundreds of times to “be not afraid.” He encourages us to live our lives not out of fear, but out of love. After all, if we are true believers, and if we are killed in any way, we will go to heaven for a life unimaginable. What do we have to fear?

The citizens of the Middle East are living in a constant state of terror, while the world is afraid of them in return. There is another tragedy that rests in a world where a religion that promotes peace can be stigmatized by radical ideologies.

Forty-three Muslims were killed in Beirut this weekend. Terrorism does not discriminate. Why should we discriminate with our love?

We have a crisis on our hands that involves human beings like you and me seeking refuge from a situation far beyond their desire or control. Jesus himself said, “whatever you do to the least of my people, you do to me.”

If Christ were among the refugees, would you still refuse to let them in?

Maybe it isn’t in the best interest of our country to let the refugees in – there are issues with health care, living space, and terror itself. However, the Statue of Liberty does NOT say, “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door… Unless you’re a Syrian refugee.”

I’m not telling you how to respond – I’m asking you to remember that every human dignity is inherently equal. No one person surpasses another, and our treatment of others reflects our treatment of Christ.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So how will you respond?

Rebecca Schisler

News Editor for The Mountain Echo

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