Something is often missing in the ongoing debate about migration and refugees: the “why.” Why are they fleeing from where they are? Maryknoll missioners working with the poor and marginalized around the world see firsthand what people are trying to escape: war and other violence, oppression in all its forms, poverty, hunger and a scarcity of opportunities for a decent and dignified life.
The story of humanity is the story of migration. The Scriptures record the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and of their 40 years as refugees in the desert. The New Testament tells of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt to protect their newborn son, Jesus, which resonates so poignantly with the cries of families with children on our southern border. (See story Tears of a mother.)
Building walls and tactics like taking children from their parents’ arms are not stopping desperate people. Such methods just diminish us as a nation. If we want to curb the unregulated flow of people at our border—the entry to today’s “promised land”—we have to ask why they flee and offer something more than punishment. Our national debate is focused on the border itself, when as the most powerful and wealthy country in the world, we need to hear ideas from our leaders for helping resolve the systemic problems of our smaller and less prosperous neighbors that are leading to this exodus. We’re not focusing enough on why.
Lynn F. Monahan