It’s a terrible juxtaposition: Mt. 18:1-5, read in Catholic churches August 14, and the treatment of refugee children on US borders. In the former, Jesus says the Kingdom belongs to children: “whoever receives one child…in my name receives me.” It hasn’t been in the press much lately: all the more reason to remember that this administration tore approximately 3,000 children away from their parents, their only buffer/security in a strange country with another language. What happened to them next?
In an editorial August 5, the Washington Post reported horrific treatment like refusing water. In “a detention center for migrant minors in Virginia — children as young as 14 stripped naked, shackled, strapped to chairs, their heads encased in bags, left for days or longer in solitary confinement, and in some cases beaten and bruised.” And that’s only one report.
The courage and persistence of U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw forced the government to return some children, but it’s unclear how many remain alone and frightened. “The reality is that for every parent that is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration,” the judge said. Not only did the Trump government fail to meet the reunification deadline, it failed on its vow to notify the ACLU (which brought the original lawsuit on behalf of separated families) of the time and place of each reunification, so the organization could verify them.
Record-keeping was spotty; the judge recently said he was impressed by the efforts, but who can believe the testimony of the callous, cruel people who instigated this heartbreak? They now say some parents are “ineligible” and others deported. That leaves a child lonely, vulnerable, the Christ in our midst abandoned.
Another contrast: the film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” about Mr. Rogers’ t.v. show. I must admit that when my children were young, I rarely saw it, but I overheard a lot. A half-hour of it and a half-hour of “Sesame Street” kept the darlings entertained while I cooked dinner. I didn’t realize that he treated controversial topics like integration, assassination and self-doubt in ways that children could understand. Later accused that his emphasis on every child as special may have made a whole generation feel entitled, the response was: If every child ISN’T special, that undermines the very foundations of Christianity. Which brings us back to the beginning, Matthew’s gospel, and the abusive ways that’s been violated.