Neighbours of the Madina Masjid on Danforth Avenue responded to the Jan. 29 shooting at a Quebec City mosque by gathering in front of the large Toronto mosque Feb. 3 for a candlelight walk around the block, encircling the mosque and assuring the local Muslim community of their support and sympathy. Photo by Michael Swan

Canadian, U.S. Catholic scholars unite to condemn Trump actions

  • February 9, 2017

Catholic colleges and universities in Canada and the United States have condemned the Trump administration’s policy of closing  America to refugees, banning all travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and building a wall along the Mexican border.

“We judge President Trump’s executive order on refugees and migration to be morally unjust and religiously dangerous,” said the board of the Catholic Theological Society of America, the largest association of Catholic theologians in North America. “We call for it to be withdrawn and for its implementation to stop.”

On Jan. 27, Trump ordered the executive branches of the U.S. federal government to suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. The administration plans to selectively and conditionally resume the program for individual countries and prioritize refugees from minority religions.

The President also ordered a complete travel ban for anyone coming from Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Iran Iraq, and Yemen for any reason, invalidating their visas for 90 days.

Since the order, chaos has ensued, with federal courts ruling that the ban be lifted and the White House launching appeals to reinstate the ban.

The statement from the Catholic Theological Society, which comprises Canadian and American members, was quickly followed by critical statements from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada, King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, Universities Canada and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Science representing 91,000 faculty and graduate students in Canada.

The Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the U.S. condemned both the Trump administration’s treatment of refugees generally and its border wall plans.

“The proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border irresponsibly allocates precious financial and human resources in a venture that has proven to bear no impact on border security,” said the Hispanic theologians.

The Canadian Association of University teachers joined with the American Association of University Professors in condemning the Trump travel ban, stating that it “affects many of our academic staff and students in Canada.”

Canadians on the board of the Catholic Theological Society said they had to become involved because the executive orders were already disrupting academic life on their campuses and splitting the families of students and faculty.

“We see professors, researchers and students have been blocked from returning to the United States — people who already hold legitimate visas,” said Saint Paul University theologian Catherine Clifford from Ottawa.

King’s principal David Sylvester said international scholars and students at his college were already being affected.

“There’s a very practical aspect to it. This hurts how we operate,” Sylvester said.

“More importantly, from a Catholic perspective, this attacks the dignity of the people we work with.”

Clifford said the response is not about partisan politics.

“It’s about the call of the Gospel,” said Clifford. “We’re speaking as a group of theologians who are deeply troubled.”

Regis College theology and philosophy professor John Dadosky, also on the board of the Catholic Theological Society, turns to the Gospel of Matthew to make the point.

“In the Gospels there is that story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt. Well, what if Egypt wouldn’t have let them in? Herod could have slain the Holy Family,” said Dadosky. “We don’t want to throw up a wall so high that people can’t see the Statue of Liberty.”

In a letter to King’s students and faculty, Sylvester said the college has a “moral obligation to stand up for what we have long claimed is our college’s purpose — to seek truth and to work for justice.”

“When these difficult things come forward, it’s really important that you find your true north,” said Sylvester. “We’re called to seek the truth and put it in service to all humanity — not just the Catholic Church, not just my family or my particular peer group.”

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