Push-backs, humanity, idolatry and faith

Push-backs, humanity, idolatry and faith

Over the past few days, a significant number of people with no religious affiliation – mostly Maltese – have expressed their surprise to me at how many Christians among us seemingly have no problem in squaring push-backs with the faith.

They raise the question knowing that I am a priest. More so, when the proposed push-back of newly-arrived Somali boat migrants to Libya was going to take place the day after Pope Francis visited the nearby island of Lampedusa to remember migrants who had died at sea trying to reach Europe and appealed to the global community to turn away from the “globalisation of indifference”.

Not a few Christian Maltese are asking themselves the same question. I have no answer, but will offer some reflections. In so doing, I am fully aware of concerns about the limited capabilities of Malta to deal with a sudden, large number of arrivals and support calls for solidarity from larger EU member states.

From a Christian point of view, the Incarnation – the central belief of the Christian faith that the Son of God became man – is God’s personal statement of faith in humanity. God loves human beings so much that the Son of God became man, one of humanity. He fully shared the human condition, experienced a most violent death and rose from the dead with a glorified human body.

Any separation of humanity from God is, henceforth, impossible. What goes against humanity, goes against God.

With the Year of Faith running somewhat forgotten in the background, it seems that we Catholics in Malta may need to kick-start evangelisation in a different way.

Faith in the cupboard is useless. We need to rescue the shared baptism that makes us Church from antiquarianism. Greater familiarity with and love for the Word of God is a good starting point: shared in groups or prayed over in solitude. Jesus begins announcing the Gospel – the Good News of God, that is – by a proclamation of freedom for those who are at the very bottom of society (Luke 4:18-19).

Throughout the Gospels, the actions and words of Jesus as He announces the Reign of God are: healing for the sick, welcome for the outcasts, forgiveness of sins, restoration of dignity, casting out demons.

Other starting points could be families praying with their children for families with kids fleeing violence in other parts of the world, prayers in adoration of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (who is also really present in the oppressed of the world), prayers of intercession in groups, and preaching during Mass.

Many Maltese feel strongly about the national interest. So do I. Yet, when nation-states have only interests, but no values, society is very sick.

For Christians, seeing no connection between our faith and the humanity of others means that we have ditched our faith.

To raise the national interest above anything else is a form of idolatry.

Generally speaking, applauding plans to push boat migrants seeking protection back to a third country where there is undisputable proof that they could suffer serious harm is to renounce to our humanity.

Hospitality in the face of adversity is not servile: it only makes us more human.

Fr Joseph Cassar has lived and worked with forcibly displaced people on different continents.

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