In case you’ve been away, I mentioned recently that nearly a year ago now, I read an article about Pope Francis’ thoughts about our worldwide refugee crisis where he called for us all to embrace four verbs as our shared response: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate. These four actions are so integral to a Christian response to our brothers and sisters in crisis, so reflective of the call to be imitators of Jesus, that I think they each are worth exploring a bit given what is happening now.
This week, a look at the final verb, to integrate. Key to understanding what our Church teaches about migrants and refugees is the meaning of integration. It is not, as some believe, a process of assimilation where newcomers either suppress or forget their own identity, traditions and culture in order to “be like us.” Rather, it is a process of welcome and understanding where both sides are enriched and changed by the lives of the other. In order to do this, Pope Francis advises that we begin by offering more opportunities for intercultural encounters, working to understand the lives of refugees and the causes for their flight from their homelands and advocating for faster methods of legalization.
How to sum up all four of the verbs Francis is asking us to embrace? Mark 12:31 – loving our neighbors as ourselves comes to mind.