Bishop Cistone: ‘As Christians, we must be Concerned for the Safety and Well-Being of the Vulnerable Children Involved’
SAGINAW — In addition to the joint statement issued with other faith leaders, calling for the compassionate treatment of young children migrating to the United States, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, offers the personal statement below. In the statement, Bishop Cistone shares his own experience of the situation of young people in Central America and calls upon people of faith and good will to put aside political difference and focus on the needs of the children.
“For so many of us, our hearts are torn as we watch news reports of unaccompanied children and young people migrating to the United States. Caught in the middle of strong emotions, hostile attitudes, and opposing political positions are vulnerable children who have survived a dangerous journey. The migration of these children through Central America and Mexico often leads to severe trauma and exploitation causing violence, mistreatment, family separation, and, in some circumstances, death.
“For me personally, it calls to mind my recent visit to El Salvador this past February. On behalf of Catholic Relief Services, as a member of the Board of Directors, I had the opportunity, together with other bishops and lay people, to visit San Salvador and its outlining regions. I witnessed firsthand the disturbing circumstances of children, some as young as five and six years old, seeking refuge in street gangs in order to escape the dysfunctional situation and even violence within their own homes. The gangs provide food, shelter and protection. However, the children pay a terrible price for membership in these gangs, finding themselves involved in a world of drugs and crime, creating their own level of fear and violence against others.
“Catholic Relief Services provides opportunities for those children – courageous enough to escape the gangs – to be educated, find employment, and transform their lives. In the spring 2014 edition of FAITH Saginaw Magazine, I recount the story of one young man, Manuel, whom I was privileged to meet and come to know. I am sure that, among the thousands of unaccompanied children migrating to America, there are many among them who share Manuel’s story.
“There is now indication that some of these children may be transferred to an institution in Vassar where, for an estimated 2-4 weeks, they will be given shelter, food and education while the Department for Health and Human Services addresses their future.
“I am pleased to have joined with leaders of other faiths to address this humanitarian crisis. We can understand the levels of frustration on the part of people regarding the inability of the government to establish a comprehensive immigration policy. While people of good will may hold differing opinions about the causes of this crisis and the legislative means to appropriately address the question of immigration, as Christians, we must be concerned for the safety and well-being of the vulnerable children involved. And so, I call upon all people of faith and good will to focus on the needs of these children who, in their innocence, come to us seeking safety.”