by Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND
Summer is for children. It is their free time. They don’t have to get up while it is still dark to wait for school buses, dressed in school clothes and carrying those heavy backpacks filled with homework – done or not. It is their time to wear the universal uniform of summer – shorts and tee-shirts. Summer leagues of baseball are in session and there are the days in the park or at the seashore, whiling away hours building sand castles or riding waves.
For some this is the reality of summer. For too many children this summer very different experiences are their reality. We have seen the images of small children at play on the beach in Gaza where their broken bodies were strewn over the sand. Teenagers out at night became the victims of hijacking and murder. In retaliation another teenager was captured, tortured and killed. In Cameroon, young girls taking exams were taken hostage, not yet returned months later.
Primary school boys are being helped onto the tops of trains by older boys of eleven or twelve to begin the journey away from the violence of their own cities to cross the border into the United States. As dangerous as it seems, staying home in a city where four hundred children a year are killed seems more dangerous to them.
For each of these horrible circumstances there are complicated, confusing political realities. Solutions are neither easy nor without risk. Yet to dismiss the crimes against children as the consequences of a political situation is to stop seeing as Christ sees. We can never do that, regardless of our political stance.
Cries for immigration reform arise from every corner. No one denies the need for it, but it is not an excuse to do nothing for the children who have crossed into our country to escape. No one wanted the war refugees from Europe at the end of World War II. The Vietnamese boat people were turned away from many shores in the seventies. Cuban refugees were sent back in the sixties.
The Palestine-Israel conflict is older than most history books. No one, for any reason, has the right to kill an unarmed teenager regardless of who started the fight this time around. Collateral damage doesn’t justify any child’s death.
The world is enthralled with Pope Francis as he washes the feet of a Muslim teen or kisses a disfigured man. But when he invited the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to come to the Vatican to pray for peace, news reporters called him naive, stating that he was out of his league, that he should stay out of politics. It appears to be much easier to prove a rationale for war than for peace, despite the disastrous aftermath of wars which often lay the groundwork for the next conflict.
Jesus was dismissed in his day; he was ignored by most. History, outside of Church documents, has no record of his life. His consistent ethic of life and truth-speaking apparently threatened enough powerful people to have him executed. Two thousand years later we only know of these heads of state because of their connection to Jesus.
Whether it is popular or not, politically astute or not, the Christian follows Jesus. These summer days when some children run free and roll down hills of grass, the Christian attends to children whose lives are insecure, dangerous and at risk. We know that Jesus acted this way; we expect the Pope to care for the children. No less is expected of us.