Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Feb. 25, 26 or 27
Conflict and celebrity seem to sell more than substance and justice, which are dismissed as dull or old news.
Returning to Rome from a six-day visit to Mexico, the pope was asked about Trump’s harsh ideas on immigration – deporting U.S. citizens whose parents are undocumented immigrants, mass deportation of millions of people, and erecting a huge wall. Francis replied, “A person who thinks only about building walls –wherever they may be – and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”
Speaking broadly about Christianity and humanity, Francis didn’t condemn Trump but callous ideas. The comment was similar to his remarks about reactions toward Mideast refugees. Addressing European countries’ responses to the influx of desperate immigrants flooding into the continent, the pope in September said, “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.”
Hope also should not be withheld from working people, who must be treated fairly, the pope also said in comments most media chose not to report, choosing instead to set up a back-and-forth headline-grabber.
Francis’ observation about walls could pertain to most GOP presidential candidates, but Trump took it personally, and then attacked, calling the pope’s judgment “disgraceful.” Further, Trump’s been criticized by other world leaders: French Prime Minister Manuel Vals said Trump is “feeding hatred and misinformation.” Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal dismissed Trump as a “disgrace to America.” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Trump “shouldn’t talk like this.” And U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron called Trump’s ban on Muslims “divisive, stupid and wrong.”
Protestant pastor Jim Wallis, author of “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America,” defended the pope.
“Trump changed the conversation on immigration in America, turning it toward bigger walls and against the ‘strangers’ that those of us who are Christians are commanded by Jesus to ‘welcome’,” Wallis said, “Our choice: bridges or walls. I choose to stand with the Pope, building bridges, and all Christians should do the same.”
Media ignored the pope talking about a situation that affects many more people in all nations: employers who treat workers badly.
“God will hold accountable the slavers of our day,” Francis said.
Meeting with workers, he said, “What kind of Mexico do you want to leave your children? Do you want to leave them the memory of exploitation, of insufficient pay, of workplace harassment? Or do you want to leave them a culture that recalls dignified work, a proper roof, and land to be worked?”
Stopping at one of the notorious maquiladoras – factories built on the border separating the United States and Mexico where employers pay low wages to day laborers to make products to export – the pope elaborated.
“The prevailing mentality puts the flow of people at the service of the flow of capital, resulting in many cases in the exploitation of employees as if they were objects to be used and discarded,” he said. “We must do everything to make sure that these situations do not happen again. The flow of capital cannot decide the flow and life of people.”
Talking is a step, said Francis, praising negotiations.
“I know it is not easy to get along in an increasingly competitive world, but it is worse to allow the competitive world to determine the destiny of the people,” he said. “Profit and capital are not a good, over and above the human person; they are at the service of the common good. When the common good is used only in the service of profit and capital, the only thing gained is known as exclusion,”
Finally, Francis reminded people of their value – from workers’ and employers’ perspectives.
“The best investment is creating opportunities,” he said.
[PICTURED: Photo of Pope Francis during his Mexico visit from NZCatholic.]