People often wonder why the Catholic Church cares so much about refugees. There are several compelling answers.
- First, as people forced from their homelands by persecution, refugees (and migrants generally) are among the populations the Bible and Catholic social teaching most often command us to care for.
- Second, American Catholic institutions have gladly taken on the responsibility of resettling about one million refugees since 1980, about one-third of all refugees who have come to the United States during that period. Our Church has walked with these brothers and sisters and come to know their stories. Their lives have become intertwined with the very life of the Church. And we serve them not because they are Catholic (most of them are not), but because we are Catholic.
- Third, the world currently faces the largest-scale refugee crisis in recorded history, with 5 million refugees and asylum-seekers forcibly displaced from their home countries. During the unfolding of this crisis, meanwhile, United States commitment to refugee resettlement has been dramatically cut. The United States is closing its doors on those in most need, precisely at the moment they need it.
I was reminded of this when I attended an event organized by the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Share the Journey initiative at Georgetown Law School last month, where both the urgent need for humanitarian assistance and the remarkable contributions of refugees to their adopted countries were on full display. A refugee microenterprise named Foodhini provided catered lunch inspired by recipes from around the world and was, well, out of this world.
I heard Aya Alkhdair recount her story of coming to the United States in 2015. She’s an impressive former refugee from Sudan who now works for Catholic Charities Maine and is applying to medical school. Her experience is typical of young refugees, so motivated to make the very most of a new life in America.
Whenever our government sets future refugee resettlement policy, it would do well to bear in mind the many benefits that people like Ms. Alkhdair bring to American society every day.