Sunday, 13 December 2015

Applause for Texas bishops

I love hearing stories of people who are prepared to stand up for their convictions. Especially stories of people who stand up to governments and their clearly unjustified actions.

Recently the Roman Catholic Bishops of the state of Texas have essentially told their state’s governor to go fly a kite. Not that crudely, mind you, but in language so clear that everyone could understand them.

Last month, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott told refugee resettlement agencies in his state that they must not resettle refuges from Syria for “security reasons”. Abbot was one of thirty US state governors who made that policy. Federal money for the support and resettlement of refugees comes through state governments, who have oversight of refugee resettlement programs. Abbot turned off the money tap and filed a lawsuit against one refugee resettlement agency.

The agencies, in turn, said they would continue their work of helping refugees, no matter where they came from. Their response to the Governor, who is himself a Roman Catholic, was unequivocal. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas said, 

“We must not be led by our fears, but guided by our mercy and prudence to develop a means to protect refugees while also protecting ourselves at home. As Pope Francis recently said so eloquently before the US Congress, “if we want security let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunity, let us give opportunity. The yardstick by which we measure others is the yardstick by which time will measure us.”

One of the agencies said more succinctly, "We have no plans to stop welcoming Syrian refugees."

I am certain that the principle of mercy towards others found in Matthew 25:40 is at the heart of the Bishop’s decision. In that passage, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The imperative nature of the words of Jesus make it clear that it is the responsibility of the Christian to respond with compassion and mercy to those who seek refuge among us.

Although voices in opposition in Canada have urged restraint and caution, including that of our own MP, none have gone so far as to stop funding refugee resettlement. The absolute opposite is true, thank goodness.

As a Christian, I am compelled by the words of Jesus to support refugee resettlement in Canada. It’s a principled position and one which history shows is  practical and possible.

Fortunately, Canada is not Texas. If it were, I’d have to say I’d be strongly supporting the Bishops in their fight with the  governor. My conscience tells me I can do nothing else.