Embracing all neighbors

A Syrian migrant carries a child as he waits in line to board a bus organized by the Austrian government in Hegyeshalom, Hungary. Public domain by Freedom House, https://www.flickr.com/photos/syriafreedom/

People who give their time and talent for neighbors with no expectation of reward deserve to be recognized (“Neighbors who care” Dec. 28, Tri-County Community Press). Neighborliness makes the community a better place for all of us.

Our inspiring Tri-County neighbors are responding to the needs of others by raising money for good causes, volunteering at schools, donating blood, making prayer shawls for hospital patients, housing people displaced by fire, befriending widowed veterans, and conducting a clothing drive for victims of the Gatlinburg fires.

There is, as the parable of the good Samaritan tells us, a broad meaning to the word ‘neighbor.’ There is the next-door neighbor, the neighbor down the street, the neighbor in another state, and the neighbor in a foreign land. The neighbors who look, talk, and worship like us and others who do not. They are all our neighbors.

As the parable goes, the Samaritan, a foreigner despised by Jews, does what the priest and Levite would not. In response to the needs of another, he risks the dangers on the “Way of Blood” between Jericho and Jerusalem to help a stranger. Like our Tri-County neighbors, he was a good neighbor.

For nearly 50 years, the U.S. Catholic Church has celebrated National Migration Week as a time to reflect on the challenges confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.

By the end of 2015, nearly 66 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes by war and persecution, according to the United Nations. Most (41 million) were internally displaced within their homeland, but many (25 million) were refugees or asylum-seekers. More than half of all refugees are children.

A Syrian family waits after being escorted into the harbor by the Greek Coast Guard, which found them drifing offshore on June 4, 2015, in Kos, Greece. Public domain by Freedom House, https://www.flickr.com/photos/syriafreedom/
A Syrian family waits after being escorted into the harbor by the Greek Coast Guard, which found them drifing offshore on June 4, 2015, in Kos, Greece. Public domain by Freedom House, https://www.flickr.com/photos/syriafreedom/

About 5 million of all refugees worldwide come from Syria, which has been ripped apart by civil war. Over the last 5 years, the U.S. has admitted 10,000 Syrian war refugees into our population of 320 million people. Canada, with a population of just 35 million, has resettled almost 39,000 Syrian refugees over the last 13 months.

In our country, the great melting-pot, the idea of admitting migrants raises concerns about national security, cultural dilution, competition for jobs, and additional burdens on taxpayers. These issues deserve informed discussion and should not be ignored.

Nor should we ignore the positive contributions of many immigrants and success stories like that of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, whose father, Abdul Fattah Jandali, was a Syrian political refugee.

Hungarian policemen detain a Syrian migrant family after they entered Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, Aug. 28 (Reuters/Bernadett Szabo) Public domain by Freedom House, https://www.flickr.com/photos/syriafreedom/
Hungarian policemen detain a Syrian migrant family after they entered Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, Aug. 28 (Reuters/Bernadett Szabo) Public domain by Freedom House, https://www.flickr.com/photos/syriafreedom/

Although bearing false witness against neighbors is condemned in Proverbs, some immigrant groups have been unfairly scapegoated, and some individual immigrants have been threatened and mistreated for the problems they are perceived to cause.

During National Migration Week, Jan. 8-14, the U.S. Conference of Bishops is calling on us to move beyond our suspicions of migrants and engage them in a meaningful way so we can see them as neighbors with their own unique stories.

Responding to the needs of our migrant neighbors brings its own inherent rewards, but no less important, it helps make this great country even better and stronger for all of us.

By Mike Brown, mbrown.c4ad@gmail.com

Republished from Tri-County Community Press, Jan. 11, 2017