Thinking Anew – A time for solidarity and mercy

Migrants   on a makeshift boat at the tiny Spanish Island of Alboran this week. Photograph: Reuters

Migrants on a makeshift boat at the tiny Spanish Island of Alboran this week. Photograph: Reuters

 

At a Mass earlier this month in Rome, Pope Francis said: “The only reasonable response to the challenges presented by contemporary migration is solidarity and mercy. Governments must be less concerned with political calculations and more with an equitable distribution of responsibilities. Many of the poor are trampled on today.” Powerful and indeed provocative words from the pope, and they have more or less gone unnoticed in the world’s press.

An Italian priest, Gianfranco Formento, in 2015 posted a notice on the church where he ministers: “Racists are forbidden from entering. Go home.”

The Umbrian priest is currently in dispute with the new Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini of the far-right Northern League party over his migration policy.

Fr Formento said: “There is an evil force of racism, and Salvini has contributed to this. He’s been a magician in cultivating hate and manipulating anger. People of all ages have become racist because of the climate we’re living in.”

And then there is Donald Trump and his daily rant about migration. Add the names Orbán, Farage, Salvini and some more and one quickly sees that the migration issue is a most serious problem.

Some weeks ago, the former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble wisely stressed how important it is for the EU to solve the migration problem because, he argued, it could well cause serious destabilisation within the European Union.

In tomorrow’s Gospel we see how Jesus has pity on a large crowd. He has pity on them because “they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.” (Mark 6: 34)

In the first reading we read from the prophet Jeremiah: “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks.” (Jeremiah 23: 1)

Far too often and far too easily we can be inclined to dismiss as out of date, pious and irrelevant to our lives the wise words of the Bible, the words we hear in church.

These words will be read in churches around the world tomorrow. They remain dramatically relevant, straight-talking words that apply to the appalling suffering, which is being experienced by the poorest of the poor as they go to great lengths to make better lives for themselves and their children.

Of course, it is important that there are rules and regulations on how people gain entry to a country. The world is in crisis and migration is one of the symptoms or signs of what is happening. But how is there such silence about the disparity of the world’s richest?

An Oxfam study carried out earlier this year shows that the wealth of the nine richest people in the world is equivalent to the wealth of half the world’s population. Think about it: nine people own what four billion people share among themselves.

It is intolerable to see how some politicians are cultivating hate and manipulating anger around the issue of migration. Is there a word spoken how the developed world colonised and plundered the developing world for generations? It’s the ancestors of those who were colonised and brutally treated who are today landing on our shores.

The Trumps, the Salvinis and Farages have no problem with the super-rich from the developing world living next door to them. It’s the poor they want to keep out or send home.

Tomorrow’s scripture readings tell us a different story and one that is far more noble and life-enriching.

Right now, the dominant voice is that of the powerful and vested interests. They have found the perfect scapegoat on whom to blame all our woes and pain.

It’s such a grace and joy to hear voices like those of Pope Francis and Fr Formento.

Another Italian priest Alex Zanotelli calls on journalists to write more on the difficulties people experience in Africa and points out that they are fleeing disaster.

Remember, nine people on the planet own the same wealth as the poorest four billion. Remember too, that Jesus took pity on the crowd.

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