Recently at the Tijuana, Mexico/ U.S. Border, chaos erupted as U.S. officers fired tear gas at migrants. There are reports indicating that rocks were thrown by migrants at the border agents before the tea gas was fired. It is hard to know where the truth rests – both groups were distressed and responded. The challenge is how could the interaction have been a compassionate one between wearied refugees fleeing in hopes of finding a life free of fear, violence and poverty, and members of the border patrol facing thousands of refugees.
First my heart wants to know: Why Tear Gas? Tear gas is a chemical agent banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which set forth agreements signed by nearly every nation in the world — including the United States. The shock is that while it’s illegal in war, it’s legal in domestic riot control. Why such a decision, for there is risk of serious permanent injury or death when it is used. This includes risks from being hit by tear gas cartridges, which include severe bruising, loss of eyesight, skull fracture, and even death. The question continues to plague me – Why Tear Gas?
Is there a compassionate approach that can resolve this situation and calm the refugees and border agents? Who holds the key to the mystery of presuming the good will of each group, enabling them to work together, or is it hopeless? Is it possible for significant members of both groups to come together to plan a peace process? I don’t have the answers, but know deep in my heart that love and compassion are the change agents available to us.
The Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus on the horizon reminds me that Jesus was a refugee. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read the story of the “Flight into Egypt” in which, after the birth of Jesus and the visit from the Magi, an “angel of the Lord” comes to Joseph in a dream and warns him to leave Bethlehem for Egypt (Mt 2:12-15). Why? Because King Herod was planning to “seek out the child to destroy him.” Mary and Joseph leave, along with Jesus, and made their way into Egypt. The Holy Family flees their homeland for fear of persecution. Isn’t this the modern-day definition of a refugee?
Everywhere we look, we see overwhelming reminders of Christmas. If we look towards the US Borders, they remind us of thousands of refugees who will celebrate Christmas homeless in uncertainty about their lives. May the refugee, Jesus, inspire our nation to pour love and compassion on all refugees worldwide.
“Treat others and the planet as you would like to be treated.”