Join me, open your arms to Migrants and Refugees – #ShareTheJourney

On Wednesday, Pope Francis led an inspiring launch of #SharetheJourney, a global, two-year campaign in support of migrants and refugees.  He opened his arms wide in a loving gesture and said, “Christ urges us to welcome our brothers and sisters with our arms truly open, ready for a sincere embrace, a loving and enveloping embrace.”

Migrants and refugees are not after our jobs, our lives or our culture.  They are looking with hope toward a brighter future for their families in collaboration and with integration into their new homeland; just as my ancestors sought the same in the mid-1700’s.  Their plight is little different from those in my family who fled war, persecution and economic hardship almost three hundred years ago.  Continue reading “#ShareTheJourney”

Another #WorldRefugeeDay

The Lampedusa Cross on my desk.

#WorldRefugeeDay is a day of action! Through #CatholicRelief, #GlobalCitizen and other organizations, we have the confidence that we can make a difference of people who are suffering from displacement, terror and fear. Continue reading “Another #WorldRefugeeDay”

Hostility and Cowardice are Not American Virtues

The Captain of a Greek Coast Guard Ship aiding refugees in the Documentary, “4.1 Miles”

#Refugees who are fleeing persecution or the violence and destruction of war deserve to be welcomed.  As I have stated before, it is in the National DNA of the American people to come to the aid of those who are in need, oppressed or desperate for safety.  When we have failed to live up to this National instinct, we have found ourselves on the wrong side of history and later spoke of our profound regret.  Take for instance, our country’s rejection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.  After turning them away, many ended up dying in concentration camps at the hands of those they were trying to escape from.  We recall that time and action with shame.

Hostility toward people in need is  not an American characteristic or virtue.  Neither is cowardice.  Historically, Americans are willing to not only speak for those in need, but we have been willing to take risks to protect them.  I like to think of our country like the man who is willing to take a personal risk and step into difficult situations to protect those who are more vulnerable.  It is the country that we have tried to be in my lifetime.  But things are changing.

President Trump’s ill conceived, poorly executed, and legally questionable Executive Order barring refugees seeking safety in the United States, is an act of both hostility and cowardice that is antithetical to our American tradition.  Americans should be appalled, but for some reason 30%-40% of us are are not.  We should ask ourselves, ‘Is the extremely low probability of a terrorist entering the country a fair balance against the pain and suffering of millions of people?’  My answer is, ‘It is not.’  To let people suffer and die because we might have the slight risk of harm is not an American virtue, it is cowardice.

For a real look at the “dangerous” people that so many Americans are so very afraid of, take the time to view the documentary: 4.1 Miles.   It was made by Daphne Matziaraki and has been nominated for an Academy Award.  After watching it, just ask yourself, do these people deserve our hostility or should we really have such great fear of themI hope your answer on both questions is a firm NO!  Let’s tell our leaders that we can do more, bear more and be welcoming and brave Americans.

Advocacy: A Day on Capitol Hill

Yesterday I was part of a delegation of Catholic Relief Services Global Fellows who went to Capitol Hill to meet with legislative staff members of our Senators and Representatives.  Our purpose was to advocate on behalf of two groups of people that are all too often voiceless in world society; those who are victims of human trafficking and slavery and refugees.

Senator Johnny Isakson’s Office: (L to R) Deacon Fred Toca, Deacon Steve Swope, Legislative Correspondent Allie White, Kathy Hampton, Deacon Bill Hampton, Fr. Vic Galier
We discussed the pending legislation H.R. 3226/S. 1968, which is the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act.  This act would be another important step toward ending trafficking and enslavement around the world.  Currently there are approximately 30 million slaves in the world, many are women and children who are held in the sex trade and many are men in forced labor.  The act would require all publicly traded companies with revenues of $100 million or more to include in their annual report a statement that tells what efforts they have made to ensure their goods and services have not been produced by people who are enslaved.  The legislation is important because it again affirms the inherent dignity of each human and the revulsion we all have for human trafficking and slavery.  In addition, businesses will benefit when they are assured their competitors do not have an unfair and immoral advantage over them due to the cost differential that the use of slaves creates.

All people of good faith can let their voices be heard on this topic.  To send a note to your senators and representative you can go to this website and complete the form: Support H.R. 3226/S.1968.  It only takes a minute and can have a huge impact.

Senator David Perdue’s Office: (L to R) Fr. Vic Galier, Deacon Bill Hampton, Kim Mazyck,  Kathy Hampton, Katie McCabe Chaudoin – Legislative Correspondent, Deacon Fred Toca, Deacon Steve Swope
In each office we also encouraged support for additional funding for humanitarian aid in the federal budget for the current fiscal year.  Right now the humanitarian aid funding is .014% of the Federal Budget – that is just over  1/100th of one percent.  It is that small in the face of the largest refugee crisis since World War II.  While acknowledging that every country has a right to vet those who wish to migrate we must also admit that we have a moral imperative to aid those fleeing war and persecution by supporting refugees where they presently reside, during their journey and within our own borders should they be admitted.  Increasing funding to provide all refugees the basic necessities of life like food, shelter, clothing and education for children is not optional for anyone who claims to be Christian or American.  It is a moral requirement that we cannot justify ignoring.

As a Georgian, I am proud to say that we received a warm welcome in all three offices and the promise of additional study and consideration of the pending legislation.  I encourage each reader to take the time to contact your Congressional delegation and voice your support for both of these initiatives. Based on our meetings, I can assure you if you are a Georgian, your voice will be heard.  Peace!



A Six-Year Old’s Compassion

Six-year old Alex

Deep within each of us is a moral compass. We can look at that compass and follow it or not; that is called free will.  It is interesting how instinctive and easy it is for children to follow the moral direction it points with compassion and heartfelt sympathy for others.  A six-year old New York boy named Alex saw the picture of little Omran Daqneesh in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria and was moved with compassion.  He was so moved that he wrote a letter to President Obama asking the President to go get Omran and bring him to the U.S. so that Alex’s family  “will give him a family and he will be our brother.”  The moving story of Alex’s plea can be found here: Alex’s Letter to the President.

Deep within each of us is a moral compass.  Like Alex, we each should follow it; it will help us navigate to a better world.

Stark Choice in Syria – Become Refugees or Risk Injury and Death

Wounded 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh sits alone in the back of the ambulance after he was injured during airstrikes targeting Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday, August 21, 2016 (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In January of this year I visited Greece and Serbia with a delegation from @CatholicRelief to better understand the #RefugeeCrisis in the Middle East and Europe and to witness the humanitarian relief being provided.  While there we had the opportunity to meet many refugees and aid workers.  In this blog, I have reported stories of just some of the people that we encountered.   Continue reading “Stark Choice in Syria – Become Refugees or Risk Injury and Death”

JustAScottishGirl Blog: Remembering…

A few months ago I posted from a blog written by a woman who goes by the name JustAScottishGirl.  She has spent the better part of the past 10 months working with the refugees who are coming ashore on the island of Kos, Greece.  Today she posted another poignant piece reflecting on her time there and the successes and failures she has witnessed.  It is well worth reading.

Memories are funny things, they sneak up on you when you least expect, making you feel want to have a little cry in the middle of dinner or making you burst out laughing when you are with… 

Read it all here: Remembering…

The Georgia Bulletin: The Refugee Crisis in Europe from an Eyewitness’ Perspective

Pope Francis walks with refugees as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 22.  The pope invited more than a dozen refugees to sit near him on stage during his catechesis.  CNS photo/Paul Haring

This Commentary was authored for The Georgia Bulletin and was published on July 7, 2016.  Please read the full commentary at:  Deacon Steve Swope’s Georgia Bulletin Commentary on Refugees.

Generosity and Courage

The Ahmed family at the home of Jim and Peggy Karas, left, who were joined by other sponsors. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

This is what generosity looks like when we are freed from the irrational fear of refugees.  This Canadian model is worthy of praise and imitation.  Read the NYT Article: Refugees Encounter a Foreign Word – Welcome!

#WorldRefugeeDay is Today

“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions …  We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”  – Pope Francis

Today is World Refugee Day.  It is time to show world leaders that the global public stands in solidarity with the millions of refugees who have fled their homes due to war or persecution.  These are real people with families whose lives, hopes and dreams have been dramatically disrupted by conflict.  Each of us can make a difference by contacting our national leaders and asking for their support to aid refugees, work to end the conflicts that have led to their fleeing and help to return them home.  Your voice and mine can make a difference.