Who is my neighbour?

A Biblical response to the separation of families at the border
By Natasha Mathews, Mukilteo resident | Jun 27, 2018
Natasha Mathews, Mukilteo resident

The other day, I was sifting through my daughter's school papers and I read through an assignment about "mottos I live by." My daughter wrote, "kindness is the highest form of intelligence" by Wayne Teasdale and "In God we Trust." So good.

I think in light of current affairs with the separation of families at the U.S./Mexico border under the "zero tolerance" immigration policy, these mottos are particularly apt.

As an average citizen, maybe we don't know all the ins and outs of immigration, but our gut, if we're honest with ourselves, tells us that this isn't right and that it's unkind and cruel.

Further, as a Christian, I was aghast that Bible verses were quoted to justify this practice. Neither scripture, nor Jesus' words or actions support this type of policy and, in fact, directly oppose it.

Romans 13, which was cited by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as compelling people to follow the laws of the land, is immediately followed in verse 8 and 10 by a summation of Paul's message.

It reads, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law…love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law."

Jesus clarified "who is my neighbour" for those looking for a rigid, legal loophole to be unloving, exclude and ill-treat others.  This is perhaps quite relevant for today.  We can sometimes view immigrants as "others," they are not "us" and then we justify mistreating "them".  However, Jesus stated that a group of people the Jewish people of the time looked down upon, the Samaritans, were neighbours (see Luke 10), and if neighbours then they should be loved (as we love ourselves – Mark 12:31).

Interestingly, justice in the Bible, even in the Old Testament, is most often defined as compassion for and kindness towards people. Zechariah 7:9-10 says, "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Execute true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien (foreigner) or the poor.'"

In the administration's desire to execute justice, we mustn't forget that true justice is about compassion and caring for others. The real Biblical basis for interaction with foreigners is one of mercy and compassion.

Exodus 23:9 says, "Do not oppress a foreigner, you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt."

We mustn't forget where we come from.

Fourteen percent of the United States’ current population, 45 million people in the U.S., are foreign born. That's the highest in absolute numbers in the world!

Twenty-four-and-a-half percent of the population are "second-generation" immigrants, meaning at least one parent is foreign-born. And actually in the U.S., the majority of Americans are in favour of accepting immigrants.

This is still a country that values immigrants; it is our heritage after all.

Whatever your political opinions, we mustn't forget who we are.  I believe the ordinary American population is generally passionate, helpful, neighbourly, and generous.  Let's remember who we are and not look at or treat our neighbours with disdain or apathy.  In trying to defend American safety and interests, let us not forsake the values we hold most dear- family, children, opportunity, diversity, and dignity.  These are the things that make this country so rich and great.

You can write to your congressmen (look up here https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/addr/) or the White House on https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ to urge them to execute justice with compassion by passing bills that would promote and enable families to stay together and treat immigrants with dignity.

You can also sign petitions by the ACLU and KIND to stop the separation of families at the border.

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