Happy Fourth of July! This weekend is a time for us to express and celebrate our patriotism – not only through flags, fireworks, and partying with family and friends, but also through serious reflection on our freedom, its high price, its sacred meaning and the way we need to pass it on intact to the next generation. When our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence two centuries ago, the American Dream was officially born on the foundation of freedom, democracy and hope. It is good to remember the four types of freedom President Roosevelt spoke of in January 1941, as he was building support for the World War:
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.”
But when this American Dream is sought after by illegal immigrants, we have a problem. The ongoing national conversation shows how divided and polarized we are on this sensitive topic. Instead of taking any hardline position based on any political affiliation, it is good for us to know the united stand of our nation’s Conference of Catholic bishops. On the one hand, our Bishops assert our fundamental right to control our nation’s borders; on the other hand, they ask for humane and compassionate treatment of immigrants as our brothers and sisters created in God’s image and likeness. The following is excerpted from the US Bishops’ pastoral document, Welcoming the Stranger among Us: Unity in Diversity, www.usccb.org/committees/pastoral-care-migrants-refugees-travelers/welcoming-stranger-among-us-unity-diversity
“Without condoning undocumented migration, the Church supports the human rights of all people and offers them pastoral care, education, and social services, no matter what the circumstances of entry into this country, and it works for the respect of the human dignity of all—especially those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. We recognize that nations have the right to control their borders. We also recognize and strongly assert that all human persons, created as they are in the image of God, possess a fundamental dignity that gives rise to a more compelling claim to the conditions worthy of human life.”
More such passages from this pastoral letter, “Welcoming the Stranger Among us: Unity in Diversity” will give us a Christian perspective on this matter that goes beyond partisan politics. When we realize that the Church is not condoning undocumented immigration, we will be open to solutions that will prevent more illegal immigration even as we show loving compassion to those already here as our Bishops call our attention to the reality of the United States as largely a “nation of immigrants.”
Happy July 4th !
Your brother in Christ, Fr. Abraham Orapankal