Over the weekend, Pope Francis traveled to the island of Lesbos, off the coast of Greece, to visit the Moria refugee camp where thousands of people have fled, including many Turkish refugees. Recently, the European Union and Turkey reached an agreement to deport many of the Turkish migrants from Greece back to Turkey in an effort to stymie the growing populations from the Middle East. Western Europe has recently experienced political turmoil and civic strain for welcoming so many refugees. The latest deportation efforts have dramatically decreased the number of migrants landing at Lesbos.
After meeting briefly with the prime minister of Greece, Pope Francis and the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, visited the refugees together. Both church leaders reminded Christians in Europe and throughout the world that the powerful are responsible to care for those who are marginalized. Pope Francis spent time meeting with the people and praying for them. At the end of the visit, when Pope Francis boarded his plane to return to the Vatican, he brought with him three refugee families, twelve people in all, to live there. “All refugees are children of God,” he said. Previously, Pope Francis has called on all Catholic dioceses to take in at least one refugee family, so he was leading by example.
The Roman Catholic Church also made news last week during a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic organization Pax Christi. Members attending the conference rejected the Catholic Church’s long-held beliefs about just war. The conference called on Pope Francis to alter the teaching of the church to emphasize Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence, arguing that too much violence has occurred under the banner of “just war” and that this belief has diminished the moral obligation to seek peaceful ways to end conflict.
As humans, we grapple with how to live peacefully and how to care for others. The church’s efforts for hospitality to the marginalized and for peace between nations remind us that we look forward to a day when God finally intervenes and completes the good work that he has begun in us. The prophet Micah paints for us a picture of that day when we will live harmoniously in the presence of God. This is a place where our weapons become gardening tools, God’s justice rules each and every day, and people live peacefully with one another, no longer needing to escape their countries nor be deported by foreign governments.
But when all is said and done,
God’s Temple on the mountain,
Firmly fixed, will dominate all mountains,
towering above surrounding hills.
People will stream to it
and many nations set out for it,
Saying, “Come, let’s climb God’s mountain.
Let’s go to the Temple of Jacob’s God.
He will teach us how to live.
We’ll know how to live God’s way.”
True teaching will issue from Zion,
God’s revelation from Jerusalem.
He’ll establish justice in the rabble of nations
and settle disputes in faraway places.
They’ll trade in their swords for shovels,
their spears for rakes and hoes.
Nations will quit fighting each other,
quit learning how to kill one another.
Each man will sit under his own shade tree,
each woman in safety will tend her own garden.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so,
and he means what he says.