Suffer Little Children

There is something peculiarly inhumane about separating children from their families. Of course, it has always gone on. War and poverty have always divided people while different attitudes to childhood and family have led to some surprising instances of what we would now regard as callous behaviour. In recent years the adoption policies of various agencies, in particular Catholic ‘mother and baby’ homes, have come under scrutiny and been found wanting. I have to admit, however, that the immigration policies currently adopted by the U.S.A. have been troubling me greatly because, as far as I can see, they have been implemented with only one aim in view, viz. the furtherance of President Trump’s one-sided protectionist policies. They may go down well with some sectors of American society but, given that many U.S. citizens identify as Christian, one must ask whether they are just?

Before my readers rush to correct me, may I suggest two things. The first is that both the morality and the legality of splitting up families is questionable. The moral arguments I would advance may not be accepted by all, but the legal arguments should be more generally agreed by those who believe that human rights exist. All the fine rhetoric about the right to family life comes down to a realisation that the family is the basis of human society. Article 16 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states ‘The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.’ As far as I know, the U.S.A. has not yet officially repudiated that declaration. Here in the UK, the European Convention on Human Rights has been incorporated into our laws so that Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 guarantees our right to a private and family life. Worth thinking about, surely.

There is, however, a second, purely pragmatic argument I would put forward: that it is not in the best interests of the U.S.A. or any other state to sow the seeds of anger and resentment among the young. It may take a few years before the harvest is reaped, but one can see how much terrorist violence at the present time stems from a burning sense of grievance at past wrongs, real or imagined. Often the history that gives rise to such a sense of grievance is partial or skewed, but that does nothing to change its effect. Can any of us afford to alienate the young people now experiencing the loss of family life through their incarceration in detention centres?

This is a very short post on a difficult and emotive subject, but it may help our thinking and praying to remember that every statistic we read has a human face, a human story behind it. May the Lord enlighten all of us to see ‘Christ lovely in limbs not his’ and act accordingly.


8 thoughts on “Suffer Little Children”

  1. Dear Dame Catherine,

    There is evil being done by this administration. Our hearts are breaking, and we are ashamed and outraged. Yet, we also feel that we are powerless to effect meaningful change, except through prayer. Our elected officials in Congress appear to have sold their souls and morals to the administration for political gain ((i.e., tax reform that benefits the rich and denies health care and education to many). And now, the administration is quoting Scripture in an unholy attempt to justify their actions.

    But I have faith that our prayers will be heard. I ask your prayers not only for the victims of this action, but also for us, the citizens, that we may know how to resist and halt these in humane actions being done in our name, and to bring relief and comfort to those who have suffered.

    • You can be sure of our prayers, Barbara. Many of our U.S. friends have asked us to pray for them and for those who are suffering because they do not recognize themselves or their values in the present administration’s policies. That is very hard. Usually I do not comment on another nation’s policies, but citing scripture to justify a policy that is demonstrably un-Christian spurred me into making an exception today. Of course, other U.S. friends have told me I’m wrong and that the policy was President Obama’s and has simply been continued by President Trump. Whether that is true or not is not, for me, the point: it surely should have been ended, whoever initiated it.

  2. Thank you for posting this. It was beautifully written and expressed what I am feeling but cannot express. Separating the children from their parents is so wrong. How could Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions even consider this? I am ashamed of my country’s leadership.

    • I believe the policy existed before Mr Trump came to power but the rigour with which it has been applied in recent weeks (e.g. 2000 children separated from their parents in the last six weeks) has made it particularly shocking.

  3. God bless you dear Sister Catherine for thinking of those most vulnerable to separation by incarceration. This world can be unnecessarily cruel and children are greatly affected by treatment meted out to them in their early lives. God does not recognise race, nationality, gender or age. We are all His children and He loves us all. I pray that those in power see sense and release all these misfortunates and looks after them properly, playing the Good Samaritan rather than the Demon Gaoler for a change.

  4. Dear Sister Catherine, The wicked policy of children, even toddlers being taken right out of the hands of their mothers is the Trump policy of “Zero Toleration” devised by Trump, Stephen Miller (a fascist aide) and Att.Gen Jeff Sessions. Period. There was absolutely NO separating children from their Mothers in the Department of Homeland Security. They are now being shipped 4,000 miles away; meanshile the parent gets deported WITHOUT her child. Its sick!

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