Monday, June 20, 2011

World Refugee Day 2011, the Pope, and "He Doesn't Have Family..."

Today is World Refugee Day. Although my posts about the celebration - if that's the right word - focused on refugees from Africa, it's supposed to include all folks who had to pull up stakes and move. I've written about World Refugee Day before:
World Refugee Day is a United-Nations sponsored event: which doesn't, I think, make it automatically a good idea - or a bad one. And I've been over that before. Bottom line, the United Nations exists, it's the closest thing we've got to a competent international authority, and was started by folks who I think meant well.

The Catholic Church: The Opposite of an Exclusive Club

As to whether or not I should cringe at the very thought of anything having to do with the United Nations, or assume that the various U.N. councils and agencies can do no wrong? I'll take a cue from the Church. The Holy See has diplomatic relations with the United Nations. And the United States. Also Albania, Algeria, Andorra and on through the alphabet to Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.1 We really are "catholic" - quite literally universal. I've been over this before:
But I don't think talking with folks means approving of everything they do. I've opined about love, approval, and common sense before, too.

World Refugee Day 2011: The Pope's Take

My Lord said we're suppose to love God and love our neighbors. (Matthew 22:36-40) That's not just the folks next door, or across the street. We're supposed to see everybody as our neighbor:
Which I think helps explain what the Pope had to say about World Refugee Day today.
"Pope Benedict stressed the importance of global leaders welcoming refugees in light of recent violence that's displaced thousands of people in Africa and the Middle East.

" 'I invite the civil authorities and all people of good will to ensure refugees are welcomed and given dignified living conditions as they await the chance to return freely and safely to their own countries,' he said before praying the Angelus on Sunday.

"World Refugee Day is celebrated annually on June 20.

"The celebration this year coincides with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the adoption of the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees.

"Archbishop Antonio Maria VegliĆ² – head of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People – told Vatican Radio that the commission 'has been assisting millions of refugees over the last 60 years.'..."
(CNA (Catholic News Agency))
That's probably 'about' 60 years - the Pontificia Commissio de Spirituali Migratorum atque Itinerantium Cura was set up on March 19, 1970.

Helping Refugees: Hardly a New Idea

That there's a six-decade-old pontifical commission charged with helping refugees doesn't surprise me. As for 'why didn't Catholics do anything before that?' - - - I've discussed Saint Damien of Molokai before. (May 11, 2010)

St. Damien's a fairly recent example of Catholics who give a rip about folks in need. The lepers on Molokai aren't generally called "refugees," but I think St. Damien was, in a sense, helping refugees: since the lepers had been banished to Molokai - which was at the time seen as a way to keep leprosy from spreading.

Then there was St. Severinus of Noricum, who was born in north Africa around 410, and set up refugee centers to help folks in Europe who were fleeing Attila the Hun.

Besides what my Lord had to say about how we should treat neighbors, I think Catholics have been aware of the needs of refugees partly because Jesus was a refugee Himself, for a while. (January 18, 2011, CathNews Philippines) And there's that whole Matthew 25:35-40 "least of these" thing.

Enlightened Self-Interest, Altruism, and All That

Considering the alternative to caring for folks in need (Matthew 25:41-45), helping the poor, the hungry, and others in need isn't altruism so much as 'enlightened self-interest.' I've discussed the apparent futility of altruism before. (March 20, 2011)

Bottom line, as I see it, is that we've got to help folks in need - even if we know that there's a long-term benefit in it for us. Also, please note that I speak with the full authority of "some guy with a blog." I don't speak for the Church.

Africa, the Vatican, and Me

The idea that the Catholic Church might be doing something right in Africa may seem odd - at best - in some circles. It's 'well known' that the Pope kills Africans by not handing out condoms, and is pretty much un-hip and "immoral."

Which makes about as much sense as the notion that the Catholic Church is vile because it won't say homosexual behavior is just fine - and because some Catholic priests had homosexual relations with parishioners. You can't argue with logic like that.
I'll admit to having some fairly set opinions about Africa and Africans. I think that folks whose ancestors lived in Africa, or came from there, are people: not all that different from folks whose ancestors came from Europe, the Pacific Islands, or anywhere else.

I also think that Africa's problems won't be solved by
  • Making sure that Africans stop having "too many" babies
  • The "international community" telling 'those Africans' that
    • They'd better not have too many nations
    • It's immoral for them to export certain minerals
Not that any of today's 'serious thinkers' express their 'compassionate,' 'intelligent' opinions quite that bluntly.

I've harangued about this before:
As for why I feel that I've got a sort of stake on how 'those people over there' are treated by the 'proper sort?' It may have something to do with my family history. As I explained before:
"...One of my ancestors, asked about the family of a young man who had been nosing around her daughter, explained: 'he doesn't have family: he's Irish.' The two got married, anyway...."
(November 13, 2008)
Maybe 'that's different.' After all, it's been several generations since American businesses had "Irish need not apply" signs in the window - we've even had an Irish president. And that's another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 "Bilateral and Multilateral Relations of the Holy See," (Updated: May 31, 2007)

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.