“MAY every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome,” says Pope Francis at the end of his Angelus prayers in Rome a few days back. This call to all Catholics in Europe was in relation to the recent exit of thousands of people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq who needed shelter in the foreign land.
The exodus of thousands of Syrians from their hometown was noticed by the world after a photo of a two-year-old boy, who was washed up drowned on a Turkish beach after a failed attempt to find a safer home, circulated in social media.
What was quite moving was while the entry of refugees may be perceived on a negative note by the Europeans, there was a warm welcome to embrace them. There were worries from the government that the huge numbers could not be sustained but generally refugees were welcomed to what may eventually be their new homes. In fact, at train stations in Germany, the crowd stood on the platform cheering for the refugees in English, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”
The most difficult times of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East became the finest hours of our richer neighbors in Europe. Indeed, humanity has overwhelming goodness through and through regardless of color, ethnicity and civilization.
This made me ponder about our situation in our country. Somehow we have become calloused of the plight of our poorer neighbors that we no longer notice their sufferings every day. We pass by them on the streets, we see them sleeping beside the gutters of our public roads, we ignore them when they knock at our windshields; somehow their subsistence has not disturbed us. But it should. Just like us, they want to live a good life, just like us they are humans too. They feel, they think, they dream.
If our Pope thinks that it is a Christian duty to help refugees who sought shelter in a foreign land, how much more to provide shelter of those who share our culture but are barely breathing? If each middle class family in our country can host one less fortunate kid and send him or her to school, such investment will greatly cut the poverty incidence in our country to more than half.
But the goodness of our nature have somehow been suppressed by doubts, by fears, by paranoia that these less fortunate are most likely to commit crimes as they always have just to survive. And so we walked faster when we noticed them following us on the streets. We ignore them as they beg for food. And we failed to perform our sacred duty to extend our hand.
My point perhaps is to remind us all that it is not wrong to help. The crisis in Syria gave the world the opportunity to unleash its goodness. Perhaps it would be nice if we join in solidarity with our European neighbors by starting to help those in front of us. And we can start with a budget meal and an old shirt for one hungry kid on the street.