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EDITORIAL | With influx of migrants coming to St. Louis, we are called to welcome our new neighbors

The Catholic Church calls on us to welcome migrants as a matter of human dignity

Farid Wardak gathered his thoughts before taking the written driver’s permit test. Having fled his native Afghanistan, he said he loves most things about the United States. “I can go to work and come home and relax. Everything you want to do, you can do here. I have my freedom here.”
Photo Credits: Sid Hastings
Farid and Fahima Wardak and their children arrived in St. Louis several months ago from Afghanistan — a new path to freedom, but at the cost of leaving their native home, their culture and their family.

Farid served in special forces, working alongside American troops. The United States and its allies began evacuating thousands of at-risk Afghans after the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s government after the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops. The Wardaks and their children, ages 1-8, were on one of the last flights out of Kabul, fleeing with only the clothes they were wearing and their personal documents.

St. Louis is expected to resettle 1,500 immigrants and refugees in the next year, according to the International Institute of St. Louis. About 460 people arrived here from Afghanistan in 2021. Thousands of Afghan evacuees are temporarily living in military bases, waiting to be reunited with family members and for transportation to their final destinations.

Migrants are arriving from around the world in St. Louis, many with few to no belongings. They need support for their basic needs and establishing a new home in our community. Most of all, they need our welcoming presence.

“Immigrants play an important role in our future and in providing growth and expansion in our communities,” Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski said. “Our moral compass, our compassion as human beings calls on all of us to welcome and support our fellow people, especially those in need, who are looking for freedom to live and worship the Lord.”

St. Francis Community Services, a federated agency of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, is one example, working with the immigrant communities for more than 25 years, with wraparound services including legal, mental health, housing, family support, education and more. Learn more about the work of St. Francis, donate or offer to volunteer at sfcsstl.org.

Other nonprofit organizations, including the International Institute of St. Louis, Welcome Neighbor STL, Oasis International and House of Goods, are assisting refugees and immigrants. Volunteers are needed within these organizations to help newcomers settle here.

Our actions are a way we can heed Pope Francis’ call to be a part of a culture of encounter as we welcome, protect, integrate and promote immigrants and refugees in our midst.

“Let us think of the many people who are victims of wars, who want to flee from their homeland but cannot; let us think of the migrants who set out on that road to be free, so many of whom end up on the street or in the sea; let us think of Jesus in the arms of Joseph and Mary, fleeing, and let us see in Him each one of the migrants of today,” Pope Francis said at a recent audience. “Migration today is a reality to which we cannot close our eyes. It is a social scandal of humanity.”

Catholic social teaching provides a foundation for how the Church addresses migration-related issues. Reflecting on both Scripture and the Church’s teachings, we see a clear picture that we are to support migrants in a way that promotes human dignity and the common good.

“The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2241).

We are called as people of faith to be a part of a culture of encounter as we welcome, protect, integrate and promote immigrants and refugees in our midst.

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