Pope Francis visited the Greek Island of Lesbos this week and returned to Rome on his private jet with 12 refugees aboard, including six children. There, a Christian assistance community will help the families settle and find work but all cost will be covered by the Vatican, Francis said.
All of the refugees were Muslim.
One of the Pope’s aides had the idea, to which he immediately agreed. The families’ papers were put in order before boarding the plane. When asked why all of the refugees chosen were Muslim, he said that there was something wrong with the papers of a Christian family on the list.
A deal between the EU and Turkey to halt the migrant flow came into effect on March 20, blocking off a route used by a million since 2015.
On Holy Thursday, the Pope reenacted Jesus’ ritual of washing and kissing the feet of his apostles with Hindu, Muslim, Orthodox, and Catholic refugees. Pope Francis has acted not only as a role model for the World’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics but for people worldwide, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. In his brief tenure, he has shaken the very definition of his post, reaching out to all of humanity with a message of tolerance and compassion. Last year Pope Francis released his encyclical “Laudato Si’”, an all-encompassing call for the world to come together to fight environmental change, give everyone access to clean drinking water, and deliver a wake-up call that economic progress will not end poverty when it is at the expense of the periphery.
In a country where we too often hail our exceptionalism and are reticent to share our prosperity with the world –rather, bomb the prosperity out of it– many still would like to call us a Christian Nation. 20% of the United States population is Catholic, and all Christians account for 70%. Yes, Pope Francis is a figure of the Catholic Church, but does his call to “love thy neighbor as yourself” not translate to all denominations? As a non-affiliate, I cannot answer this, but know that I do not need a higher power to tell me that waging war on thy neighbor is wrong. So when a politician like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or any other of the rabble claim to run their campaigns on specifically Christian values, I am left to wonder why they actively work to keep Syrian Refugees out, while the Pope literally lets them into his. From what I know, that is not a Christian thing to do.
From my own experience with Christianity and growing up in a generation that is increasingly non-affiliated, I can say that the message of Christianity has become warped to many of us; not necessarily due to some failing of a congregation or the holy book’s numerous contradictions, more so because of the selective nature in which its values are practiced. The basic premises of it are not complicated: be charitable, be kind to others, live a good life. The system falls into questioning when those who claim to be the most religious fail to follow its teachings.
Like a genetic engineer breeds plants, many of the faith have selectively bred their own value set from the Bible and bred out the ones which do not suit their uses — however, the result is not necessarily for the betterment of all humanity. Maybe their goals are achieved in the short term, but the divisive rhetoric they employ of ‘my God is the only God’ damns them in the end because this generation wants to come together while religion serves to drive us apart.
Despite being the head of an archaic institution rooted in tradition and intimidating authority, Pope Francis has led by example, caring not only for his own kin but for the world because to him we are all of the same kin. We live in an interconnected and global community, where thy neighbor does not always look, think, or believe the same as you do. His policy of ‘live and let live’ is the way forward for the Church and every other religious institution bleeding membership, should they maintain legitimacy through the twenty-first century and onwards.