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NewsNotes, May-June 2010
Vol. 35 No. 3

Opening reflection: Crossing borders

In recent years fear has too often served as the base of U.S. foreign (and much of our domestic) policy. With very limited connection to reality, we have been led to believe that the immigrant “other” is someone to fear, someone who is going to take our jobs, overwhelm our public services, take away the familiar and the good from our daily lives. As missioners, Maryknollers find that characterization to be highly objectionable and, as the contentious issue of immigration reform comes up on the U.S. political agenda, a shift in this mindset is essential.

In fact, Maryknoll experiences of crossing borders to encounter a diversity of cultures, languages, ideas and ways of life have been deeply life-giving and the basis for values of hospitality and social justice that, in our opinion, should shape U.S. immigration policy.

Diversity, we believe, is essential to human well-being and to that of the whole earth community. More and more clearly we understand Earth as a massive living organism comprised of millions of different but interdependent species. We know, for example, that our own survival depends on the survival of honey bees; that maintaining a diversity of crops and a variety of seeds is essential to future food security because genetic diversity enables species to adapt to new pests and diseases and to new climatic conditions.

People of faith, who experience God’s presence on this spectacularly diverse planet, in this amazing unfolding universe, and who believe that each person carries within himself or herself elements of the divine also treasure the gift of diversity as a manifestation of God’s work and presence and value each encounter with “the other” as a way to see a new facet of the divine.

Furthermore, contemporary science is helping us to understand that at a quantum level, everything is the “other” and equally, everything is “the same.” Earth is a single living organism. The entire planet is designed to function harmoniously as one, with every piece essential to the existence of the whole.

Joyce Rupp writes, “There are many ways to speak of the oneness that people have with all of human kind. Scientists describe this communion as the comingling and dancing of atoms one with another in people who are formed of the same stardust, breathe the same recycled air and drink from the same streams of life. Christian theologians present this oneness as humanity’s participation in the body of Christ. Buddhists speak of it as the practice of compassion which views all beings as one. Native Americans approach this same oneness in their understanding of each person as their brother or sister.”

An enormous challenge for all of us is to interpret this insight, this reality into the construct of human relationships, into the political arena, into our definition of peace and security.

Perhaps this can be done if we are willing to risk crossing the political, cultural, social, economic and religious barriers we have raised between ourselves and “others” – and open ourselves to be changed by those we encounter. Then, perhaps, we can bring the fragments of these enriching experiences into the global reality where hatred and fear are so often engendered.

Ubuntu, according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “speaks of the very essence of being human … It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ It is not ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.’”

Many years ago, Thomas Merton wrote, “Violence rests on the assumption that the enemy and I are entirely different: the enemy is evil, I am good. The enemy must be destroyed, but I must be saved … love sees things differently. It sees that even the enemy suffers from the same sorrows and limitation that I do. That we both have the same hopes, the same needs, the same aspiration for peaceful and harmonious life. And that death is the same for both of us.” (No Man is an Island, 1955)

“It is less and less possible to live as isolated human beings on our planet. Yet the differences among people continue to bring division rather than harmony, to produce domination struggles and war rather than enrichment, strength and peacefulness.”(Rupp)

This one-ness we now see; the consequences of exclusion we are beginning to understand; and the absolute necessity of inclusion and diversity are profoundly important to the future of the human race, yet they are elusive and complex.

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