Thanksgiving and Welcoming Refugees
In one sense, Thanksgiving Day remembers the first refugees arriving to this land. Those pilgrims came in search of religious freedom. If they had not been helped by the Native Americans, they would have all died of starvation and exposure. The welcome and assistance they received meant their survival. It also established our American identity of welcoming refugees and immigrants.
The U.S. has always been a haven for the world’s refugees, and the Catholic Church plays a large role in that welcome. Welcoming refugees is the American way and an important part of our Catholic tradition.
The U.S. Bishops have declared that America’s immigration system is broken and in need of comprehensive reform. Yet, only a few in Congress seem ready to address this need. Too many simply want to close the door. During his visit to the United States, Pope Francis implored all Americans to remember the Golden Rule and help refugees:
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. We must not be taken aback by their numbers but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Mt 7:12). (Speech to U.S. Congress, 9/24/15)
This Thanksgiving Day, can we not only remember the welcome those first refugees received, which was the origin of this civil holiday, but can we also look at what welcome we can offer the refugees seeking freedom today?