In the midst of all the uproar surrounding the plight of the thousands of Central American children detained at the border, the response of most religious leaders nationally, as well as in Iowa, has been consistent: This is a humanitarian issue demanding compassionate action.
Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Liberty Commission, has said, “This is a crisis, and not simply a political crisis, but a moral one.”
Those fleeing from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are suffering and in need, and that should be our first concern. Many Christians have been reminded of Matthew’s Gospel, which recounts the flight of Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus to Egypt—refugees from the murderous King Herod.
Bishop Alan Scarfe of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa and Bishop Julius C. Trimble of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church issued a joint statement which says in part: “ We believe this may be a defining moment in our witness as faith leaders in the United States. Let this crisis involving thousands of innocent children bring out the best in Iowans. How we respond to children in this and in all situations is a test of our national character and our capacity to wed compassion with justice and hospitality.”
The Methodists in Iowa have been particularly active and vocal in calling for immediate assistance for the children both in our state and on the national level.
Iowa’s four Catholic bishops likewise have stated the welfare of these unaccompanied children is a priority. The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and other groups have voiced similar sentiments. The safety and wellbeing of the youngsters is of utmost importance.
The cause of this problem demands our attention as well, of course. Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and much of what happens in Central America is intertwined with what happens here: The drug market in the U.S., American foreign and economic policies, etc.
Here, too, the issues are moral as well as political.
It is easy to say that we cannot fix the problems of the world. It is harder to admit that we bear some responsibility for the problems in other lands by our own self-centered policies and actions.
It is Christian to remember that we are called to be brothers and sisters, as difficult and messy as that sometimes may be.