Matthew 25, kindness to strangers inspire Loretto community to respond to Trump

Last week, we reported on how women religious are increasingly using their voices to speak out against injustice. This week, the Loretto Community added its voice to the chorus.

On February 21, the sisters and co-members of Loretto issued a statement on welcoming the stranger, urging officials to "reject immigration laws and policies at odds with the Gospel value of welcoming the stranger into the United States of America. Specifically, we respectfully ask President Trump to halt ICE roundups of undocumented immigrants and refugees."

The statement, which cites Mathew 25:35 — "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" — also calls on Congress to reject funding for building a border wall and instead fund food, drink and shelter for those most in need.

As for local officials, the Loretto sisters thanked those who have declared their municipalities "sanctuary cities" and urged those who haven't to "respect the Constitutional separation of powers and functions between federal and state governments by refusing to act as agents of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency."

Sisters have long worked for a just policy for immigrants and refugees, but as the Lorettos note, the call today is more urgent than ever.

Turnabout is fair play?

From the Department of Unintended Consequences comes yet another piece of fallout from the Trump administration's efforts to halt entry into the United States from several Muslim-majority countries: Relief agencies are either unable or unwilling to risk their employees traveling to their stateside headquarters.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, many international aid groups have employees from all over the world, especially from the nations they are working in. But now, those employees are unable to come to the United States, and international employees who work here are unable to travel home for fear they may not be able to return. Some are even prohibiting employees who are U.S. citizens from travel for fear of problems.

"They potentially could face trouble coming back into the U.S.," said Nick Osborne, vice president of international programs for Atlanta-based CARE. "We don't want to take the risk of them facing trouble."

And with reports that even green card holders had been turned away, some were being extra cautious:

Officials at Relief International, which has aid programs in six of the seven countries under the ban, faced a similar situation.

Three members of the organization's U.S.-based staff who are green card holders from Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Africa had trips planned to Iran, Somalia and Vietnam, according to Nancy Wilson, Relief International's chief executive. 

Of those, only Iran and Somalia are on the list of restricted countries. Still, "we just said don't go," Wilson said. "What if they are outside the country and the list of seven countries gets longer? We just can't be taking the risk for them to be traveling outside and not be able to get back."

Even worse: There is a real fear that the travel restrictions will delay humanitarian aid during a crisis. If agencies cannot get people to the scene of an emergency, it cannot respond with needed food, water and shelter.

Yet another problem: Agencies may be prohibited from responding at all. Some nations are responding to Trump's move by banning travelers from the United States. Iran, for example, has already canceled visas for U.S. citizens.

The real irony, of course, is that by effectively cutting humanitarian aid, the goodwill left toward the United States in some areas of the world is even lessened, which only fuels the growth of the hatred Trump is claiming to fight.

As Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, noted in a statement, "It's a huge step backwards for refugees, for our global workforce, and for our relationships beyond this country's borders."

Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at dstockman@ncronline.org.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.]

Adrian Dominican Sr. Nancy Murray is a writer and actor in her own right. GSR interviewed her about her work and her family, which includes her brother, Bill Murray.
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