By Scott Wright
Director, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Easter is itself now the cry of victory. No one can quench that life that Christ has resurrected. Neither death nor all the banners of death and hatred raised against Him and against His church can prevail. He is the victorious one! Just as He will thrive in an unending Easter, so we must accompany Him in a Lent and a Holy Week of cross, sacrifice and martyrdom. As He said, ‘Blessed are they who are not scandalized by His cross.’ – Saint Oscar Romero, March 23, 1980
The coronavirus has brought us together as a human family as no other event in recent time. In the United States, some of us may still remember stories from our parents or grandparents of the Great Depression and the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 that killed 50 – 100 million people worldwide. But now we face a future in which the entire planet is impacted by the great pandemic, and the poor and unemployed, the homeless and inmates in prison, seniors in nursing homes as well as persons with underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable.
While we look forward to Easter as “a cry of victory,” we must also accompany Christ in the “crosses,” and the “sacrifices” that the poor, and perhaps our neighbors and loved ones, will endure on a massive scale in the very near future. In the wake of this global pandemic, nations are also closing their borders to migrants and refugees fleeing wars and political violence, as well as hunger and starvation.
We have often heard it said that nations have the right to regulate their borders, but that rationale should not be based on narrow considerations of self-interest much less prejudice and hatred. Nations also have an obligation, and in the case of the United States, a legal obligation, in light of the U.S. Refugee Act passed by Congress 40 years ago, to hear the asylum claims of migrants and refugees fleeing for their lives, and to not deport them back to countries to face certain death. We must balance the right to control our borders with the moral and legal obligation to protect human lives, giving priority to the sanctity of life and our obligation to protect it.
Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of one of the church’s great saints and defenders of human life, Salvadoran Archbishop and now Saint Oscar Romero. In his last Sunday mass, Archbishop Romero preached a powerful homily in defense of human dignity and human rights. The Gospel reading for the day was about the crowds who wanted to put to death a woman who had broken the law and committed adultery. Today, with a deeper awareness of sexual abuse and domestic violence, we must also ask, “But what about the man? Didn’t he break the law, too?”
What if we substituted in this reflection the thousands of migrant and refugee families who are not permitted to seek asylum or are forced to wait in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions on the Mexican side of the border. They are accused of breaking the law, illegally crossing borders or seeking to do so, often at great risk, to protect and save their lives and the lives of their children. And like the woman in the Gospel reading, they too are under the threat of certain death, with little protection as they wait at the border, and even greater risk to their lives if they are deported back to the violence or hunger they had fled in Central America and Mexico…