Americans were unrepresented among the 192 countries gathered at the United Nations this week to hold talks with the ambitious aim of creating a Global Compact on Migration. The world managed to move on without the benefit of leadership from President Donald Trump, whose administration refused to participate.
But if the government has shirked responsibility, major religious faiths have not. In particular, the Holy See Mission to the United Nations is deeply involved in the talks, as are Catholic non-governmental organizations such as Caritas Internationalis and Franciscans International.
The goal is to bring broad moral principles to bear on the minutiae of diplomatic negotiation. In an event the Holy See sponsored at the United Nations on May 3, Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, Buddhist, Protestant, and Catholic clergy members set out some of those principles—and it was stirring to see how each faith approached hospitality for sojourners.
Mohamad Abou Zeid, senior judge in the Family Court of Saida in Lebanon, said that Muslim teaching about migrants in rooted in the migration experience of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers from Mecca to Medina. “Islam teaches us to see immigrants as sent by God,” he said.
The Jewish experience is likewise rooted in migration. Rabbi David Rosen, international director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, made that point as he cited Biblical passages such as Deuteronomy 23:16, “You shall not surrender a serf to his master,” and Leviticus 19:34, “you shall love the sojourner as yourself.”
“Indeed, not for nothing does the history of Biblical salvation begin with the story of a migrant, Abraham, who leaves his birthplace in Ur of the Chaldees, in today’s Iraq, for a better future for himself and his family and to contribute to a better future for humanity,” Rosen said.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, speaking in his role as president of Caritas Internationalis, asserted both a right to migrate and a right not to. The latter is a point being raised by many developing countries: that the Global Compact on Migration should include steps to help ease the social and economic turmoil that leads people to migrate.
“By denying the humanity of a migrant or refugee, we reveal our own lack of humanity,” Tagle said.