Molly Gettinger
Marketing & Brand Manager
October 18, 2016 // Local

Cardinal-designate Tobin urges Americans, to welcome refugees

Molly Gettinger
Marketing & Brand Manager

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis speaks Oct. 14 at the University of Notre Dame. He discussed the history and current state of refugee resettlement in the United States.

In 2015, the United States of America accepted 70,000 refugees into the country. Among them was one particular young family: a mother, a father and two small children. The family fled their homeland of Syria in 2012 and spent three years living in a refugee camp. During that time, surrounded by dismal conditions, they underwent the rigorous scrutiny mandatory for those seeking refuge status in the United States, including security screening by the National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department.

The family’s story was told by Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin, CSSR, of Indianapolis, when he spoke at the University of Notre Dame on Oct. 14, less than one week after he was named a cardinal by Pope Francis. In a talk titled “Welcoming the Stranger while Challenging the Fear,” Cardinal-designate Tobin discussed the history and current state of refugee resettlement in the United States, emphasizing the moral imperativeness that Americans welcome these neighbors as human beings and combat the prevalent fear, anxiety and hostility shown particularly towards individuals from the Middle East.

This family mentioned above, Cardinal-designate Tobin shared, was scheduled to be welcomed by Catholic Charities of Indianapolis on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2015. Following Gov. Mike Pence’s Nov. 16, 2015, statement that he would prevent refugees from settling in Indiana until the federal government could ensure property security measures were in place, however, Cardinal-designate Tobin was asked by the governor not to permit resettlement.

“Pence,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said, invited “me to pray and seek God’s guidance, which I gladly did.” The family was welcomed by the diocese and Catholic Charities, and is now living in Indianapolis.

This story is just one of the many ways Cardinal-designate Tobin has fought for refugee resettlement in the United Sates.

Contemporary American society, he said, is imbued with a fear of welcoming refugees, a fear that rooted in three things.

The first is “found in the well-publicized threats of terrorist groups, particularly the Islamic State. There are people who make bad choices in every culture, including our own, and your chances of being killed by a foreign war terrorist in the United States is one in over 4 billion.”

Second, this fear is perpetuated by the national media. “News programs use a hierarchy now in determining what stories to place before the public conscience. And, put rather vulgarly, ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ News is a for-profit industry and, I would argue, one that doesn’t always strive to report the facts accurately. … Fear-based news stories prey on the anxieties we all have. … This attitude is particularly true in reporting facts from the Middle East.”

The third factor that contributes to this fear, Cardinal-designate Tobin said, “is what I would term boundary maintenance: globalization, or a reaction of globalization that generates fear of the other.” The movement of refugees and migrants, the most embodied form of globalization, is restricted: Disembodied forms, such as trade and finance, are the most deregulated.

Cardinal-designate Tobin asked the question, “How do we, speaking as a Catholic community, react to this fear?”

Quoting Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., Cardinal-designate Tobin invited “all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcoming to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons — made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.”

He shared that, while the federal government is responsible for immigration and refugee admissions to the United States, governors ought to welcome refugees. “We need to encourage governors to continue to play their important welcoming role.”

The initial needs of refugees “are many, as you can imagine: food, shelter, employment, (in this country) English as a Second Language and orientation to a new culture,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said. He encouraged the audience to reach out to a local refugee resettlement agency, saying that the work performed by Catholic Charities would be impossible without volunteers.

To find out how to help with refugee resettlement, visit the website for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend:

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