There’s one thing that being a blonde, almost translucent, American has afforded me- the privilege of freedom. This comes most into play in my extensive travels. Simply because I had the good fortune of being born in the United States to caucasian descendants of immigrants, I have the freedom of movement. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how special and truly amazing this is. Although I have not traveled outside of the United States recently, I have the coveted United States passport. Although, to be fair, mine would be more scrutinized if I had an accent or a different shade of skin. I’ve witnessed this in the port of entries.
This brings me to the real point of this entry- migration. This week is the week of Prayer in Action (check out http://www.sharejourney.org and you’ll see more). Pope Francis is highlighting global migration because it’s not any singular country that is being affected. This is a global issue.
This week has me reflecting a lot on my own wandering spirit. I’ve not been afraid (well perhaps afraid and done it anyway…) to travel to distant lands, even within the continental United States. I had never been to Oregon when I hopped in a moving van with my dad to a place I would call home for the next two and a half years. It was during my first and only visit to Durango, Colorado that I accepted a position that would have me call Durango home for the next three years. I only visited the Canticle (home of the Clinton Franciscans) and Chicago once, before I applied as a candidate and picked up and moved across the country. Even then, it wasn’t really sight unseen, like when I lived in Scotland for 10 months or when I went to teach English in Japan. I’d never been to those places and just jumped in trusting that it would work out. Most of that trust was, mistakenly, in myself and my ability to do whatever I needed to in order to get by. However, these journeys were for opportunities in ministry and work and some even for pure amusement.
This week, and for at least the next two years, Pope Francis is calling on us to reach out to the migrant and refugee.
This search for opportunity isn’t the same for those that are risking it all to make it to the United States. Then, when they get here, they live in constant fear and anxiety that they will be discovered, deported, and/or separated from their family. How bad does the situation have to be to risk these things? I would say ridiculously bad. As we’ve heard about the Syrian refugees pouring into Greece and other parts of Europe, I remember hearing that no one would leave the safety of land for the risk of the overcrowded boats, unless there really was no choice. The reality of global migration is just that, a lack of choice. People are fleeing extreme conditions of war, violence, famine, natural disasters, and sever economic disparity.
Every “migration” I’ve made, I’ve had the resources to do so rather comfortably. And if something did go wrong, I had the benefit (and continue to have the benefit) of a family that would come to my rescue. In fact, they had to do just that on one very specific occasion that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Not once was I fleeing for my life, risking the life of my children to try to give them security in a new life, or experiencing the extremes that lead people to migrate. I simply felt called to do this and then that and so that’s what happened. The freedom of movement in this country is extraordinary. When I have had the opportunity to travel I’ve needed visas because of the country or the anticipated length of stay. These were easy to obtain with a minimal fee. To re-apply (not a new application) for DACA the cost was $495. Where are those that are struggling to come out of the shadows to seek higher education and to work legally going to just have that lying around? This is a fee for the next two years. Who can even guess what will be the situation then! And, what if you can’t pay?
Now I realize that DACA is a distinctly American challenge. I also know that there are many sides and challenges to this issue. The main challenge I have is that we can’t simply ignore it because it’s not convenient. Waiting 3 years for a trial and then be deported is simply unjust. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed. What is also needed is a discerning look at the causes of global migration so that the root causes can be addressed. The overwhelming majority don’t want to leave their homeland. They’ve been sold this idea of the American dream. What isn’t acknowledged is that Americans are part of the lucky incredibly small percentage of the global population that (generally) has what they need.
The world has enough resources to feed approximately 12 billion people. We are somewhere between 7 & 8 billion. So why are people going hungry?
There are important and very uncomfortable questions that need to be addressed to build a more just world. It’s not comfortable for me to look at my life experiences and not see the struggles that others face on a continual basis. My challenges fall squarely in the privileged category. Even as a religious, or perhaps because I am a religious, I don’t have to worry about this or that. I have the benefit and privilege of not fearing persecution because of my status as a migrant. I just want to remind everyone that we are all migrants. The globe has been populated because of thousands of years of migration. We are now in a time of mass migration.
It takes courage to welcome the migrant and refugee. However, we are all migrants or descendants of migrants.
I ask that during this time where we are called to share our journey that we truly listen to the journeys and struggles of others. This listening is what will ultimately unify us. We must seek to understand one another which we will not be able to do if we don’t listen to one another.
This is a video, not about migration, but about what it means to truly listen to one another. My hope is that I have the same capacity to listen when others challenge me or when I am challenging another. Let us listen to one another and begin to heal the radical divisions in our country and world.
Peace, love, and all good.