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Lazarus still begs at the gate

 

The teaching of Pope Francis is strong and clear. We must stand by refugees and migrants, work to protect their rights, protest against evil and violations of human rights, give shelter, love and compassion and a chance to all people to live a life of dignity.

The planet Earth is the common heritage of all humanity and must be shared by all, especially in times of war. The bounty of the earth is not just for the use of the powerful few to the exclusion of the rest of humanity.

There is news footage from Europe around at present showing police beating refugees and migrants, as they stand in the filth of muddy fields and the rain.

The treatment of asylum seekers by the authorities in some countries has been described as a disaster. The reputation and name of these nations has slumped as a result of their indifference.

They are being judged as harshly as they treat the refugees, often caging them and leaving them for days without accommodation, shelter or food, while they claim they are registering them.

This is unjust and a violation of international law, which gives refugees entitlement to shelter, protection and aid. The Eastern European states are ignoring their international obligations.

Hungary is mobilising its armed forces, even though nations like Austria, Germany, Finland and Sweden were far more welcoming.

The United Kingdom initially adopted a locked-door policy, but gave in under pressure from the kind hearts of its own people. As it is truly said, “Bless the people, chastise the politicians.”

But mostly its contribution was too little too late.

The United States of America has remained silent on this crises, cautioned no doubt by the attitudes that want high walls constructed along its southern border with Mexico. But that should not restrain the compassion and concern of the American people.

To brand refugee families as illegal migrants deserving of jail, instead of recognising the obligation to offer assistance is irresponsible and immoral.

They are simply refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the horrors of war, sex slavery and the massacres perpetrated by the Islamic State. The challenge to European nations is to take a stand and act together for justice, by pooling their resources and good will to help the victims of this illogical war.

How applicable is the gospel story of the dying beggar, Lazarus, diseased, covered in sores, skeletal with hunger and lying at the gate of the rich man, Dives.

His table groaned under the weight of food, but he would not give even the crumbs to Lazarus. Rich as he was, Dives had no compassion or care. It was the dogs that had more compassion than Dives.

The dogs tried to heal Lazarus by licking his wounds. So it is with those who reject the poor migrants and seek to keep all that is available for themselves, leaving the Lazarus-people to die.

War is horrendous and causes intense pain, hardship loss of property and deprives children of education. It is estimated that in the Middle East, 14 million children will forfeit their right to an education. A whole generation will grow up unschooled.

The war brings disease, homelessness, and utter destruction of the economy and way of life. Peace will take many years to return.

Over 200,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war and almost three million refugees languish in neighbouring countries. These people are fleeing the destruction of their towns and cities by the ceaseless bombing and shelling, both of local regimes and foreign powers.

While we seek ways to help the millions of displaced people we must also recognise and hold to account those who started these military interventions in the Middle East.

The invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and the attack on Libya ignited a great firestorm of anger and protest that set the Middle East on fire and unleashed fanatical extremists.

These unforeseen consequences, forces of terrorism and fanatical murder, wreak violence and hatred, crushing the voices crying for freedom and justice with callus cruelty.

That is an all-devouring fire that has yet to be extinguished. What must be done now is help the victims of these global disasters of war, invasions and occupation.

 

                • Father Shay Cullen