Refugees need 'a magnanimous response', JRS tells Trump

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump

The Director of JRS/USA has called on President Trump to respect the “deep values” of the United States of America and to “seize the opportunity to advance human dignity” by revitalising a response to the refugee crisis.

Fr Leo J. O'Donovan SJ addressed President Trump, sworn in today in Washington as the 45th President of the United States, in an Open Letter in America. In it, he acknowledges that, in the days ahead, he would have to come to grips with many challenges that will affect not only the well-being of the people of the United States, but of all peoples worldwide. “All Americans hope that you will address these issues effectively and in accord with the deep values of our country,” he writes.

Saying that the number of refugees in the world today is equivalent to the entire population of Great Britain (65 million), Fr O’Donovan describes refugees as survivors. “As Americans, we share their values,” he says, “the will to overcome any obstacle, to assert independence, to defend hard-won freedoms and to achieve success through sheer determination.” He then reminds the new President of the millions of refugees who have made America their home over the years, from the Irish escaping famine to Scots “driven from their land” (President Trump's mother was born and brought up on the Hebridean island of Lewis); those who fled Soviet repression and Vietnamese prisoners of war. He also lists more recent groups which have sought refuge in the USA: Iraqis, Somalians and Syrians. “They are weaving their lives into the tapestry of this country through the work of their hands,” writes Fr O’Donovan.

Our highest moral values

The response of the USA in welcoming these newcomers expresses who we are as a people, according to the Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service. “It is rooted in the recognition that all men and women possess a shared human dignity and, in the eyes of faith, are sons and daughters of a loving Creator who calls us together as one human family.”

Fr O’Donovan concludes his Open Letter by saying that generosity to the plight faced by migrants will be an expression of “our highest moral values” and will contribute to world peace and stability, as well as having economic and political benefits. “When you consider actions you might take to fulfil your promise to make America great again,” Fr O’Donovan writes to President Trump, “remember the greatness of heart that is at the foundation of just and humane US refugee assistance. Our nation and our world look to you for a magnanimous response to those who have been forced from their homes.”