Rhode Island Interfaith Power and Light joins many other local, national, and international faith organizations in condemning the incarceration of children and families on our southern border. The new policy of indefinite detention of families, as well as the practice of separation of children from their parents, is both deeply immoral and a terrifying harbinger of our social response to a future of climate disruption.
All of our faith traditions recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings, as we are all children of the same creator. In our current atmosphere of dehumanizing rhetoric, we feel this must be said unequivocally: Immigrants are human beings. Refugees are human beings. People of color are human beings. We vehemently reject president Trump’s characterization of immigrants as animals or vermin. Human rights are bestowed upon all people by God, not based on the legalism of citizenship status or the whims of bigotry.
As an organization with a focus on the climate crisis and ecological destruction, we are particularly troubled by these inhumane practices of incarceration of migrants. We recognize that unprecedented water crises are already triggering mass migrations around the world, including in Syria and Africa. We further recognize that the significant climate disruption to which we have already committed through our failure to address the climate crisis guarantees a future of unprecedented displacement of populations due to drought, sea level rise, crop failure, catastrophic storms, wildfires, and other impacts. Mass migration will be a defining feature of the coming century, and we are right now practicing how we will respond to the millions more who will come knocking in an hour of desperate need.
The example currently being set at our borders does not bode well for our potential to respond to the hardships of global mass migration in a way that affirms our shared values of decency and human rights. If the current dehumanizing treatment of those seeking refuge at our border is not ended and firmly repudiated, we risk establishing a precedent that leads to an unimaginably ugly future. It is vital that we as a society use every opportunity of migrants on our border to normalize compassion, generosity, and universal human rights.
The climate chaos which we have already caused will guarantee hardship in our future, but hardship does not have to guarantee inhumanity. We can respond to hardship by turning toward one another with love and cooperation, not against one another with fear and cruelty. We can respond to the stranger and the needy with generosity and compassion, as our faith traditions demand of us.
Here in the Ocean State, many of our own families will inevitably be forced to migrate due to rising seas. We must now treat others as we hope to be treated in our own hour of need. We must treat these children as we hope our own children will be treated as they face the consequences of climate change which we have imposed upon them.
May we all find the love and courage necessary to manifest our spiritual values, now and evermore.