Ferment at the frontier shows a chasm within America’s world of faith


By ERASMUS

IN PLACES at Europe’s southern extreme, such as Sicily, Catholic charities work hard to succour the indigent folk who turn up in leaky boats. A few hundred miles to the north, xenophobic politicians, claiming quite literally to be more Catholic than the pope, denounce the Holy See for being soft on migrants. In the United States, meanwhile, the chasm between the religiously inspired left and the religious right is probably even deeper, and migration from the south is an equally intractable bone of contention.

On December 10th federal authorities arrested at least 32 participants in a dignified but impassioned multi-faith demonstration organised by a Quaker group on the border with Mexico. They were calling for an end to the deportation of newcomers and voicing support for a “caravan” of asylum-seekers who have camped out on the other side of the barrier. America’s Border Patrol said 31 were detained on suspicion of trespassing by the Federal Protective Service, and one was arrested for assaulting an agent. Almost all were released within 24 hours. The demonstration attracted more than 300 people including many Christian ministers, rabbis and imams, all of whom insisted that their faith mandated kindness to the vulnerable stranger.

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