Overcoming Our Culture of Indifference
While visiting Cyprus this December, Pope Francis denounced the “culture of indifference” he believes Western countries have regarding migrants. Referencing many nations’ tepid response to current global migration crises, Francis called this indifference “a serious illness and there’s no antibiotic for it. We have to go against this vice of getting used to these tragedies.” The Vatican, in contrast, confirmed that “at least a dozen asylum-seekers would be transferred from Cyprus to Italy in a gesture of solidarity with European countries that have received a disproportionate share of would-be refugees” (Associated Press, Dec. 3).
Francis has made immigration a major theme of his papacy, frequently urging Western nations to accept migrants and refugees. In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (2020), he declares, “We are obliged to respect the right of all individuals to find a place that meets their basic needs and those of their families, and where they can find personal fulfilment.” He continues, “Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.”
As an advocate for Pakistani Catholic asylum-seekers, I’m sympathetic to our Holy Father’s words. I want nothing more than to see my friends, who have endured so much suffering at the hands of Muslim extremists, resettled in the West, particularly the United States. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons I wrote The Persecuted: True Stories of Courageous Christians Living Their Faith in Muslim Lands. Nevertheless, I have serious reservations about large-scale immigration, and this has created internal tensions given my advocacy on behalf of persecuted Christian populations across the globe. The publication of The Persecuted, much to my consternation, has accentuated those tensions.
I confess I didn’t really want to write the book. Though I had felt called for years to write a record of my experiences helping persecuted Pakistani Christians living as asylum-seekers in Thailand, I avoided it, perhaps in a way similar to Jonah fleeing his prophetic calling. It wasn’t just that it would be laborious; I feared its effect on me as I relived those experiences through the writing and editing process, and then in doing the interview circuit if the book were actually published.
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