Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark, blessed a group of protestors last Wednesday at the Benedictine Abbey of Newark before a crowd of more than 400 who marched to the regional ICE headquarters.
The group’s protest was a call for the Trump administration and Congress to stop detention of children and families due to the rise of complaints on the living conditions.
Cardinal Tobin spoke passionately about the situation causing national uproar and called for an immediate change in humanity.
“Children will bear the trauma wrought by immigration enforcement raids, separation from their families, and indeterminate detention,” Tobin told Cruxnow, a Catholic news provider. “These draconian measures are not, they are not, a solution to our broken immigration system. They are violations of human dignity and are contrary to all religious teachings and the sacred call to care for our most vulnerable populations. Unlike others, we don’t have to look up Bible verses to justify the building of walls. There are none.”
Among the religious protesters, a group of them lay on the ground to form a symbolic cross in the middle of the ground near the ICE building. As the crowds continued to chant, “stop the inhumanity.”
Seton Hall’s newly appointed campus ministry director, Fr. Colin Kay, mentioned the difficulties that are present when religious leaders guide protests, adding that the church’s involvement goes on a case-by-case basis, depending on what the cause of protest is and who is protesting what.
“Our faith demands action, our faith requires that we do in the world,” Fr. Colin said. “It will differ from community to community, parish to parish, come together as brothers and sisters. The word we use is discerning, we must discern where the need is and what is the appropriate way or an appropriate way for our particular community to respond to the need. We will not necessarily always agree because people of good will can disagree. Together, we must operate with mutual respect and love.”
The role of a church as a mediator can be a reason why not many protests are guided by religious figures.
As Fr. Colin noted, the church must discern where the need is to determine how they can assist objectively and not respond hastily. After thorough evaluation, the church will help to speak out about injustices and guide protests like Tobin did on Sept. 4.
Another clergyman in Seton Hall’s ministry, Fr. James Platania, added to Fr. Colin’s objective standpoint.
“If a religious leader discerns that someone is being oppressed, marginalized or mistreated, then, understandably they would speak out against the injustice,” said Fr. James, who has been serving in Rome for the last several months. “I wish I knew more, because I have been serving in Italy for a long time. From what I have gathered from Cardinal Tobin and other religious leaders is that there has been a situation of great suffering for those who are trying to cross the border. I would quote the Book of Matthew, chapter 5 verse 9, if I had to speak at the protest, as it pertains to the situation to make the words applicable and find a peaceful solution.”
The Newark gathering marked the second of three protests on this issue in the country.
The first took place in mid-July in Washington, D.C. while the third, set for Oct. 11-13, will be held in the border town of El Paso, Texas, according to Eli McCarthy, Director of Justice and Peace at the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.
Fr. James’ quote from the Book of Matthew reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Evando Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @ethmps.