Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

When we hear or see the world “alien” the first thing that usually comes to mind is an outer space creature like ET. Next the concept of “strange” as in “this is an alien food recipe might pop into our minds.” It also used to refer to anyone not born in the USA.

Today that last use of the word has mostly been substituted with immigrant or refugee. But the use of the word to refer to someone who didn’t live in your village, who was a stranger i.e not from your tribe or clan, goes back to Biblical times.

Thousands of years ago, written in the Hebrew Bible’s book of Leviticus, (the book that contained Mosaic Law to be followed) the Israelites were commanded by God to “Treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). And we are all familiar with the teachings of Jesus using the parable of the Good Samaritan (which has taken on a non-sectarian definition and become part of our language’s popular vocabulary) to broaden the definition of “alien” to mean everyone is your “neighbor” and worthy of help in time of need regardless of beliefs or background.

How we have strayed from that! How sad that we now see anyone who differs from us as “others”. How sad that we feel we can change our laws to exclude these human beings from being recognized as “neighbors” not worthy of the same standards we have codified in our “Leviticus”, the Constitution! Perhaps what we need is a REAL alien to visit us and show us how to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Leviticus 19:18) ET would you please give a call to our Nation’s “home” the White House and ask our President to “come home” to his humanity?

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What’s in a word? The words we use to describe people, events, or our environments ultimately color our view about them. In my previous blog post, Facing An Invasion, I investigated how the word “invader”, applied to the immigrant/refugee caravan on our southern boarder, colors our attitudes toward these people. In this posting I would like to explore applying to them the word “pilgrim”.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pilgrim with a small p as one who journeys in foreign lands; one who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee; The Oxford dictionary also adds: A person traveling to a place of particular personal interest i.e.“thousands of pilgrims converged in Memphis for the 16th anniversary of Presley’s death”

We all know that a pilgrim with a capital P refers to the one of the English colonists settling at Plymouth in 1620.

My question is: can we consider the people trying to enter our country as pilgrims?

I came across a fascinating interview of an author who wrote a book around the topic of how the immigrants of today mirror the Pilgrims of yesteryear.

In British author Rebecca Fraser’s book, The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America, she addresses the question of why the Pilgrims left their home country. Just like the immigrants of today, she says they were treated with disrespect and forced to live in hovels and take low-level jobs that nobody else wanted. She also makes the point that many of today’s refugees from other countries are surgeons and doctors and lawyers who have nothing to show for their status in their home country. Like the Pilgrims they came here fleeing oppression, leaving not only material goods behind but also their entire way of life and identities to start over in freedom. (Interview by Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2017 https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2017/1120/How-do-the-Pilgrims-relate-to-immigrants-today)

(yes, yes, I know, most of the “refugees” camped on our boarder are not doctors or lawyers, but like the Pilgrims, they are fleeing intolerable situations in their home countries be it political or economical.)

In another article, American Spirit, The Pilgrims Were the Original Refugees, Michael Daly writes for the Daily Beast:

“In that sense, all the refugees who followed,[the Pilgrims] the Irish and the Jews and the Syrians and the rest, have been pilgrims. And all these pilgrims have given thanks of some kind, if not a historic feast of wild turkey and venison, then at least a heartfelt sigh of relief.”

He also recounts the Elmaris family from Syria’s journey to the United States, saying, “They then set to building a new life with the spirit that has always made America great [my emphasis], the spirit of the refugees who have come here.” 11/25/15 https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-pilgrims-were-the-original-refugees

The immigrants and refugees of the 21st century are indeed on a journey to something holy. They are seeking America’s most scared and holy value “freedom”.  Robert Cushman, a church leader, in a famous sermon, said immigration was a solution if there was nowhere for people to exercise their talents, which he called “that knowledge, wisdom, humanity, reason, strength, skill, faculty, etc. which God hath given them.”

Our modern immigrants/refugees are fleeing from threats to their lives, and oppression for their beliefs. They are seekers of a higher, good freedom, and even those who are uneducated are seeking a better economic existence being willing to take the lowest level jobs our country has to offer. Doesn’t that meet the definition of pilgrim with both Ps?

However, if you want to do a rebuttal to this posting, do a Google search on “pilgrim vs immigrant”. You’ll find lots of information to back up an opposing viewpoint!

In recent weeks, a big question has been banging around in my mind about the word “invasion”. President Trump has used that word to describe the caravan of Central American refugees who are marching towards the U.S. Regardless of what my or your opinion is on whether they should be let into our country, I just can’t accept them as an invasion force.

The dictionary defines invade (invasion is the act of) as: “to attack; to enter with hostile intentions; to encroach upon (to invade the rights or possessions of another).

Can one really say that a group of individuals, mainly consisting of women and children and men whose intentions is flight from countries that threaten their lives or just to attain a better living standard, are “invaders”? When we think of invaders don’t we usually think of Attilla the Hun, and Genghis Khan and their hordes? Don’t we see Hitler with his army and armaments taking over a European country?

In those 3 examples I gave, the common denominators are hostility, aggression, and use of force through armaments (arrows, guns, bombs). Not to mention, containing sizable numbers of trained solders to execute those hostilities. These poor people approaching us have no weapons (except maybe a pocket knife or two), they don’t want to “take us over” and that would be ludicrous anyway since they are 5,000, more or less, against a population in the U.S. of millions. Furthermore, they would gladly be “captured” if it meant asylum. They love the US, otherwise why would they be making this thousands of miles trek to come to us.

OK, it is true that there are always bad apples among every group. But so far no guns, no killing, nothing except some rock throwing has surfaced. And unless they had the biblical David’s skill with a slingshot, they are incapable of doing much physical harm. Yes, their illegal attempt to enter our country would be a violation of our laws. But do we have to demonize them? Do we have to have a campaign of fear and hate placed on them? After all the horrific shootings in the last 2 weeks, do we need yet more hate to be planted in our hearts? I just pray that when they eventually do arrive at our boarders, I will not awake to the sound of gunshots on the morning news.