On 30th January, 2017, a grassroots led series of demonstrations took place across Scotland and the UK. These were in response to the decision by US President Donald Trump to suspend refugee resettlement, and the banning of citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. Protests also made reference to the perceived silence of the Westminster government, in particular Prime Minister Theresa May, following her invitation to President Trump to undertake a state visit to the UK.
The Justice and Peace Commission joins its voice in solidarity with those in the UK, USA, and across the world in condemning Mr Trump’s actions. The decision to discriminate against the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been seen by many as a ban on Muslims, promised by Mr Trump during his campaign, yet now denied by his office. This targeting of our brothers and sisters is a hateful action which risks dividing families, friendships, and communities. The church calls for all Christians to work sincerely for mutual understanding with Muslims, and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all humankind’s social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom. (Nostra Aetate, para 3, Pope Paul VI)
The decision to ban Syrian asylum seekers is in contradiction of our fundamental duty to protect the innocent, and offensive to the Church’s commitment to defend their human dignity. This position is deeply rooted in Catholic Social Teaching. The words of Pope Francis in his message to the world on Easter Sunday 2016 remind us that "the Easter message of the risen Christ ... invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees ... fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice… All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance."
This duty is something without which we cannot call ourselves Christian. As Pope Francis has made clear “it’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of [our] help.”
In a message for the inauguration Pope Francis prayed that Mr Trump will find the wisdom needed to exercise the office he now holds. We join the Holy Father in that prayer. However, we join first and foremost in our prayers and actions to all those who are at risk, and face uncertainty due to the travel ban; you are our brothers and sisters, you are loved, and you are most welcome.
Remembering the words of St Maximilian Kolbe, that the most deadly poison of our time is indifference we join in solidarity with all those who stand up in their communities for peace, social justice, and love for one’s neighbour. We give thanks for all those who attended US airports offering their professional skills, and personal friendships. And we join with other organisations, and individuals across Scotland and the UK in calling on the government to revoke the invitation for a state visit by Mr Trump as his actions are antithetical to our values.