We have all been horrified by the senseless terrorist attacks in Paris. Join me in fervent prayer for victims of the massacre, for justice for ISIS leaders and killers, and for world peace.
While there have been calls to close our borders to Syrian refugees fleeing the ravages of civil war, we cannot simply close our doors to refugees simply because they are from Syria. But we must remain vigilant. Careful screening of all who wish to enter this country is needed.
Pope Francis' concern for refugees and immigrants is very well known, as we see in this recent comment: "Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees - fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life - the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken. To give them a concrete hope," he said. "And not just to tell them, 'Have courage, be patient!'"
These words of the Holy Father were addressed primarily to the Catholic people of Europe, where waves of refugees from Syria and elsewhere are fleeing in the largest movement of refugees since the 1990s. In the last five years, at least 4 million Syrians have fled their country's civil war and the threat of ISIS. Most have fled to nearby nations, especially Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, along with the many others who moved to Europe.
What of us in the United States? The U.S. Catholic bishops have joined Pope Francis in calling on our government as well as the international community to support both the Syrian refugees and countries that have been at the forefront of this massive humanitarian effort. Our bishops call for an end to the conflict in Syria and Iraq and for working toward an inclusive peace that will allow refugees to return home. The international community must stop the persecution of Christians and other religious groups in the Middle East.
Migration and Refugee Services, an agency of the United States Conference of Bishops, recommends seven ways U.S. Catholics can help:
Write to President Obama, urging him to strengthen U.S. resettlement efforts of Syrian refugees who are fleeing violence, and to work toward a negotiated end to the current conflict that will protect human rights and religious freedom.
Urge your Congress members to provide much-needed development aid for refugee host countries near Syria.
Donate to MRS' Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees fund to aid Syrian refugees.
Donate to Catholic Relief Services' efforts in neighboring countries and Europe to support refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis.
Contact Catholic Charities to find out how we can assist in their effort to resettle refugees. I can personally attest to the good work that is being done by Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities in particular. During my tenure as a board member of Catholic Relief Services, I witnessed firsthand the direct impact this agency has on people in great need. As so many of you know, our local Catholic Charities offices also do tremendous work and deserve our ongoing support in service to refugees.
Join the conversation on social media: #refugeeswelcome.
Most importantly, please pray - for the refugees and migrants, for their plight, and for their safety and peace. The following prayer for migrants and refugees was given to us by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I hope you will join me in praying it for all those suffering during this refugee crisis:
Lord Jesus, when you multiplied the loaves and fishes, you provided more than food for the body, you offered us the gift of yourself, the gift which satisfies every hunger and quenches every thirst! Your disciples were filled with fear and doubt, but you poured out your love and compassion on the migrant crowd, welcoming them as brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus, today you call us to welcome the members of God's family who come to our land to escape oppression, poverty, persecution, violence, and war. Like your disciples, we too are filled with fear and doubt and even suspicion. We build barriers in our hearts and in our minds.
Lord Jesus, help us by your grace:
To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs;
To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice;
To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us;
To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.
We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from so many people. We see in this human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one Most Holy Trinity in whom we make our prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.