Migrants walk after crossing the Bravo River at the border line between Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso in Texas, U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, May 9, 2019. CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters

Speaking Out: Stayed tuned to world around you

By  Kathleena Henricus, Youth Speak News
  • July 22, 2019

When school let out in June, all my teachers could talk about was, “Don’t waste your summer” and “keep up with the world around you.” But the most notable thing I heard on the final day of class came from a friend. “It sucks, but the sucky things in life don’t stop just because we’re out (of school).” 

She was referring to an unfolding humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. Regardless of your political beliefs, the migration crisis there is a silent horror. It’s happening right now and it’s affecting people my age, young migrants who should have been going to school this spring. Instead they have been living this tragedy.

Whatever drivel or nonsense is said about my generation, we pay attention and we have opinions, because the world is a scary place. To not voice your concerns and to stay apolitical is a sure way to repeat the exact mistakes prior generations have made.

So, I stayed true to my teachers’ advice and heeded my friend’s eloquent words. I have kept up with a story that has been told countless times, but must be told again. Normally we don’t follow events so far away, particularly events that are highly and politically charged. But we should care, we have to care, because it’s wrong to try to rationalize away one of the biggest humanitarian crises to occur in my young lifetime.

As Catholic youth we should recognize those being inhumanely treated at the U.S.-Mexico border are not unlike us. We have to be a force that helps break the cycle of this inhumanity. We have to use our activist voices, our compassion and our empathy to recognize the crisis and demand action. 

I first learned about this migration calamity via Instagram. I saw a video of a child, no more than three years old, being ripped away from her parents and forced into a holding area. It had only one light and some aluminum thermal blankets. It housed more than 40 scared, hungry kids. I was floored. 

I remember thinking to myself, “Where is this happening? This can’t be recent, this has to have happened somewhere far away a long time ago.” 

As the video closed and the location was revealed, I was stunned. This injustice, this catastrophe, was happening now, almost in our own backyard.

By now the images are widespread. They include accounts of hundreds of rosaries being confiscated from Central American migrants seeking refugee status; parents being separated from their children and forced into cages without running water; children who can barely speak being forced to represent themselves in court. To put that into perspective, even the most hardened criminals have the right to an attorney. 

The families being held are our brothers and sisters, many of them Catholics, all of them people just like us. Dozens of children are unaccounted for, missing or God forbid, worse off. 

Keep up with the world around you, advised my teachers, even though, as my friend said, it can sometimes suck.

So this summer, remember those who, for no other reason than the place they were born, are less fortunate than us. We have an obligation to keep telling their stories and to donate to activist campaigns. Inform, inspire and act. 

I’ve developed a real passion for immigration reform. I’m following the news and reading reports, signing petitions, making donations and posting on social media. Together, Catholic and other youth can do so much more. 

Christ taught us to care for the poor, the vulnerable, the outcasts. Even if we don’t entirely understand the reasons behind the plight, or the fight, of the migrants, we need to remember: respect comes before understanding. 

As Jesus taught: Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.

(Henricus will be entering Grade 11 at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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