Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ – Matthew 25:44
You have likely seen the dramatic photos of a little boy above, all over the internet right now. This precious little one appears to be asleep – think of all the toddlers you know, falling asleep due to exhaustion wherever it is that they land, the sofa, the family room floor, the back seat of the car. This kid is most definitely asleep – in the Lord. He is dead. He is one of many Syrian refugees who did not or will not make their intended destinations. Kyrie eleison.
For many people, the idea of a photo of a dead toddler at the seashore is abhorrent and should not be shown. If you ask me, we need to have a good long look at these images – they are Christ crucified. The caption in one set of images that I saw on Facebook pointed out that if this were a dead whale or dolphin, the outcry would be great. I agree, that would get people going, but a little Syrian child? Maybe not so much.
Of course images of dead children, as well as dead adults tend to have us all gasp, yes me included, and then we move on. We have a long history of dead children facing us right here in the US. And adults. Undocumented immigrants join the poor, and of course, the children of Sandy Hook. And then the countless others that die for preventable reasons that we never see and therefore never even give a second thought to. Reference once again, Jesus words about the least of these.
The irony of this being the 10th anniversary of the Katrina disaster nudges itself into my consciousness as well. The sight of Americans, uncared for, dead, with the living left in dire need should haunt every one of us.
Dead immigrants in flight? Look no further than our own border with Mexico and those fleeing a better life in the US. Here is a link to a story about The Colibri Center, trying to reunite the remains of deceased immigrants found in the desert with their loved ones.
In most cases the children survive. But then what happens to them? At the end of the post you will find a video about missing migrant children in Italy. Where do they end up? Most likely in the hands of those who co-opt them for criminal use, you know – drugs, contraband, and child prostitution and worse. We can’t forget that most of those who facilitate the transit of the desperate often do so for profit alone, without care to those who come to them.
In our country, we met a rising tide of children and mothers fleeing violence and death in their home counties. I can vividly recall reading this piece last year, that should give some clarity about the desperate scenarios that have children in flight.
And let’s not forget the immensity of the Holocaust and of the far lesser known, but horrifically tragic Armenian Genocide. This image of a dead child fleeing into Syria should illustrate that well enough.
Our human lust for death is a pro-life matter. Yes, those words make many uncomfortable. Well, comfort is less of a concern when dead children are washing up on the beach, when we can live with the fact that freedom to “bear arms” is more important than a classroom of dead children days before Christmas. The term pro-life should (and in reality) does stretch across a broad spectrum. To that point, little children should not appear to be asleep at the water’s edge when they are dead – and in any other circumstances where we see the horrors we inflict upon one another.
We may feel small, insignificant, and overwhelmed. Yes, we feel overwhelmed in our central air conditioned homes, with sound proof double pane windows, with our cable and our internet, and a fridge full of food, a good deal of which will be tossed out. Fear not, I hardly live in a big, fancy house, but this applies to all of us as human beings, and I daresay – especially to us who profess that we follow Christ. I mean – do we? I have to ask myself this every day. What’s the old joke, “I’m a practicing Christian, because at this point I am only practicing.” Pope Francis is a great reminder to stop practicing and start living – as if Jesus weren’t enough to get us going!
It is overwhelming, but we have to do something. What can we do? Imagine if each of us did a few things – forget that, imagine if each of us did one small thing. First of us – for those of us who pray, let us pray! For those of us who are in a position to bring attention to such matters, make it known. Don’t be afraid to say what you really believe. Not sure what you believe? Test your heart by trying to imagine the “other side.” Maybe that means considering that your own beliefs about immigrants, guns, or people of color may be more limited and harmful than you thought.
What else can we do? Donate to those who are on the ground. My own two choices of charities for the Syrian immigrant crisis would be CRS (Catholic Relief Services) and CNWEA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association). They are both well run, on the ground, and your donation much goes to help those in need. There are numerous ways to help through donation if you choose to look elsewhere, fire up your Google machine and look for ways to make a difference.
Perhaps we can take a cue from the Icelanders and the Germans, places that have opened doors, minds, and hearts to say “please join us.” The houses in Iceland do not look that big, they are close together, but we don’t hear “there’s no room or resources.” We are here, come – we will help you. That is an example of Christian living.
I’m not suggesting that we all bring home a family of Syrian refugees, but what can do something. I’m not sure, but at least we can begin by imagining our selves as Icelanders, opening the doors of our hearts to those in need through the means mentioned above. And no doubt there are other ways I have not listed. Each of us can do something, find a way to support someone in need. Who are the least of these? What will we choose to do? The least ones need each one of us. Will we be there?