I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me

World Refugee Day

We, as Christians, are called to welcome our new neighbors with the same love and compassion we would want ourselves to be shown in a time of persecution.

Fr. Sam Nasada, OFM, Associate Pastor

For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. (Mt. 25:35)

Last month, I was invited by an organization called Border Angels to go on one of their hikes in a mountainous region in southeast San Diego County. After a more than an hour-long grueling hike, we reached a spot where they proceeded to ask me to lead the group in prayer.

On February 10 of this year, on this very spot, Juana Santos Arce, 35; Margarita Santos Arce, 32; and Paula Santos Arce, 29, lost their lives after crossing the border from Mexico. They were from El Jicaral, a small town in the mountains of central Oaxaca. The snowy condition on the mountains that day were too much for them and they asked for help. By the time Border Patrol agents reached them, two of the sisters had already died and the third died within hours from hypothermia. I could still see some medical supplies left behind from that tragic day.

Family members told media outlets in Mexico that for lack of work and money, the sisters were trying to achieve the American dream. Their story is not unique. Today, more than 70 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes, nearly 26 million of these individuals are refugees. Many of them died trying to reach safe havens.

On June 20 we celebrate World Refugee Day. It is a core Catholic teaching that every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore entitled to dignity and respect. The Catholic Church views assisting those in need as a fundamental Christian duty that is derived directly from the life of mercy of Christ, who himself was a migrant and a child of refugees. We, as Christians, are called to welcome our new neighbors with the same love and compassion we would want ourselves to be shown in a time of persecution.

The United States has traditionally been at the cornerstone of the international humanitarian system that protects refugees who so desperately need help. We must maintain our leadership position and protect lifesaving U.S. development and humanitarian assistance, which helps to meet the basic needs of refugees and vulnerable migrants and addresses the root causes of migration and displacement. Had we been more consistent in doing this, perhaps people like Juana, Margarita, and Paula would not have felt the need to take on such an arduous journey to seek safety and security.

I spent a few moments praying with the Border Angels volunteers that day. Our emotions got a hold of us. I tried to imagine the pain a parent must feel when losing three of their daughters at the same time. I prayed that one day, there be would be no more unnecessary and tragic deaths of people like Juana, Margarita, Paula, and thousands of others on our southern border.

Peace, Fr. Sam
Associate Pastor

Fr. Sam Nasada, OFM

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