guest column:Fr Oskar Wermter SJ
There is a border which draws a sharp line between Mexico and the United States of America. Now the US makes this line even less surmountable. More and more barbed and sharpened wires create more and more fences and obstacles of hundreds of miles. Why? What for?
The Mexican economy is in poor shape. The citizens of the poorer southern country feel they are very much cut off from the northern highly industrialised and prosperous United States.
The US attracts much poorer Mexico. Unemployed and destitute southerners come in their thousands to climb over the barbed wire fences to gain access to the American dream and share in the riches of the so highly productive northern neighbours, often as grape pickers who benefit from the incredibly rich harvest of their so successful farmers next door. The US agricultural industry needs labour, but has little sympathy for the poverty and destitution of those labourers.
Instead of spending millions on those barbed wire fences, would it not be better to boost the Mexican industry with those millions and create employment for the “fence climbers”? Even Americans lack jobs, live in penury, suffer from lack of resources. Have they no sympathy with the poor, no readiness to share and welcome those climbers over high boards and fencing?
American fathers and mothers long for their own children who have moved far away. Do they not sympathise with Mexican children who are like their own children? Is there no solidarity, no feeling of togetherness, since they are all descendents of migrants and refugees from the other side of the Atlantic? We are all human, we are all refugees and come from far away if we investigate our origins. We all seek new countries, and want to build new homes where we have never been before.
Why do the rich reject immigrants?
We have contempt for settlers, but are we not refugees ourselves? Our South African neighbours come from faraway places, and yet they want to chase immigrants back to where they came from.
We are all refugees, fearing the aggression and xenophobia of so many of our neighbours, who we no longer tolerate.
We have so much in common, human beings all of us, with common origins. Even animals are not to be chased across the Limpopo or Zambezi.
All of us belong together, where we are. “Respect every living being in general, as an end in itself, and treat it if possible, as such.” Why should we hunt elephants, kill wild game and drive antelopes into the mouths of lions? Are we not meant to make friends with animals in the bush, along the rivers, hidden in forests and on mountains?
There are lakes and large pools for our water supplies. Are we not all surviving on these same rivers and pools, oceans and water ways? Do we need to cut down the most beautiful, long-lasting trees? Are they not our cousins, brothers and sisters? Most recently men and even women were sent to the moon and stars. Is not the whole earth our play ground? Why should we hold our neighbours in contempt and abuse them?
During World War I, during the worst massacres between French and German troops, some of the soldiers crawled out of their trenches to meet their deadly foes, wished them ”Happy Christmas” and sang Carols together, while sharing sweets they had received from home. There are moments when our common humanity and solidarity cannot be wiped out. Are we meant to annihilate each other in genocides and massacres?
Must not human solidarity keep us together? Don’t we have a common origin binding us together? Don’t we recognise we are children of the same family and clinging to each other in solidarity?
Women stick together as wives and mothers, retain their solidarity with one another in the love of their husbands, never give up on the love of their children, embrace their children since that is their common bond, share common interests and sympathies, while creating a psychological sense of togetherness in clans (mutupo). These are the ties that bind people together as one. They struggle to overcome common risks and dangers to health and physiological shortcomings.
Women need to assist each other in solidarity, when threatened by breast and cervical cancer. They need courage when fighting domestic violence and sexual cruelty.
There are times when they forget courage and solidarity, and times when they must take a strong stand against abuse and contempt by men, and even by fellow women. Not all women stand-by each other and give each other solid support.
Our Creator feels the deepest sympathy with His creatures, He is in solidarity and deep union with all who came from His hands. So we too must be tied together with bonds that no one can tear apart.
We were given only one earth. Let no fence, no Limpopo or Zambezi sever what binds us together.
Let there be just one Africa and one common home. Europe is threatened by nationalism and factionalism where we are not welcome and cannot climb fences. But if we welcome our neighbours and know our relationships ( like common clan names — mitupo), then we begin to tear down those barriers and fences.
Fr Oskar Wermter SJ is a social commentator. He writes here in his personal capacity.