“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Heb 13:2).
In countries of the region, it is urgent for us to return to the concept of the human being as a priority before all political decisions and actions, where dignity and quality of life are the first priorities of the state.
That humanitarian action is the priority in any situation has not been the practice in most governments, as shown by the dehumanizing and unfair policies that the US government is exercising against migrants (1).
The violence that dehumanizes
In many situations, violence against migrants is carried out by state agents, that is, it is institutionalized violence that does not take into account respect for human rights, especially that of minors (2).
This logic of violence destroys the social fabric and deteriorates the quality of life. This violence becomes a mentality, becomes hate speech and actions that arise from xenophobia, homophobia and aporophobia. These attitudes generate exclusion and victimization. These phobias create a cycle of violence towards migrants (3). The disastrous fire at the National Institute of Migration in Ciudad Juárez, on the border with the United States, shows that the tendencies and public policies in relation to migrants both dehumanize and produce collective victims, with the most vulnerable once again being those affected and violated in this story (4).
The recent history of this humanitarian crisis of migrants has increased with the inhumane policies instituted by Obama and Trump, making the Mexican government their unconditional ally in this “persecution and criminalization” of people in migratory transit”(5) . In addition, to this violent practice and policies carried out by governments is added the violence exerted by organized crime groups:
“…Doctors Without Borders (MSF) denounced that two thirds of the Central Americans interviewed who were traveling to the US through Mexico had been victims of violence. Nearly a third of the women interviewed had been sexually assaulted on the road” (6). This situation of violence is deteriorating our human quality, destroying the life of the migrant, fragmenting the family and the social fabric. This situation of violence has been repeated with an increase in the journey through the Panamanian Darién jungle, as verified by the organization Doctors Without Borders (7).
Hospitality: A Humane and Christian proposal
Faced with this degrading situation, a humane alternative within our reach is the attitude and practice of hospitality. Hospitality is synonymous with opening up, widening a space, sharing, welcoming, caring and encounter. Hospitality as a way of being in society can make a difference in the inequality, injustice and exclusion that occurs in countries and peoples. Hospitality is a practical fact that destroys the xenophobic and racist mentality and practice that exists in many populations.
In relation to this attitude and practice of hospitality, let’s take a look at the first Christian communities that started the Church. These communities understood themselves as the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12), where complementarity in diversity was central. These Christians believed that the human community is interdependent, that the UNITY of faith in Jesus, goes through the complexity of the diverse. These communities highly valued hospitality from the practice of their faith and as a new social proposal. The foreigner is a brother or sister, and can even be an “angel” (cf. Rom 12,13; Pe 4,9; Heb 13,2).
Today we need to recover hospitality based on faith in Christian communities, parishes and Dioceses. This means being men and women open to diversity, inclusive of the other, hospitable to the migrant, it is about “widening the tent,”making our lives and structures available to host, protect and welcome. The encyclical of Pope Francis Fratelli Tutti addresses the meaning of brotherhood from the political perspective that transcends all of creation. We have to return to this principle and practice in the Christian life: “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live as brothers among themselves” (FT 5). The lack of hospitality affects the dynamics of universal brotherhood and social friendship, as the encyclical makes clear.
Hospitality in the Franciscan charism
For Franciscans, hospitality is a relational dimension that arises from the sense of fraternity, and materializes in the encounter. This occurs when two or more meet from inner sensibility, being aware of being part of a cosmic fraternity in the same Common House, considering it a shared and distributed habitable space so that life is possible. In the meeting, a relationship is proposed based on dignity and fragility, the beauty and goodness that is fundamental in humans, as well as in creatures. The encounter is a relationship without oppression and humiliation of the other, where the fragile is cared for and not exploited, where life is protected. The meeting generates a process of total trust, which at the same time strengthens the relationship.
Francis of Assisi considered each and all his sisters and brothers to be sons and daughters of the same Father of mercies, relating to creatures from their dignity and beauty for the mere fact of being created, in a harmonious relationship that integrates the diverse and even the contrary. In Francis, the encounter is hospitality, it is an open house, a welcoming heart, a merciful look, a kind word, a commitment to solidarity with others, with a “straight” faith that leads one to believe that every living being is part of the loving plan of God the Creator.
Hospitality is difficult in these times of violence and social insecurity, where mistrust has entered faith communities. Therefore, hospitality today becomes a prophetic decision and action, a sign of the times that challenges us in humanity, in the social structure and in our way of life inspired by the gospel announced by Jesus. Hospitality to the migrant is categorical of being a Christian, and defines us in which God we believe and love (Mt 25, 35-40).
René Arturo Flores, OFM
RFM – Panamá
Credits and Citations
Main Photo: Marcos Rivera.
3. Rescatado el 24-20-29. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-46317956
5. Rescatado el 24-10-19. https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/066-mexicos-southern-border-spanish.pdf