In a report published on Thursday, it was reported that while on a recent visit to Buddhists in Thailand, Pope Francis addressed the issue of refugees, comparing the policy of building walls and detention centers to the acts of King Herod who killed Jesus.
La Civilta Cattolica reported on Thursday that while in Thailand, Pope Francis met a group of 48 Jesuits from Southeast Asia. Pope Francis is unique in several respects; he is the first pope from the southern hemisphere and, most significantly, he is the first Jesuit to be appointed to the position. The pope discussed the issue of refugees and immigrants with his fellow Jesuits.
“For the Jesuits our work with refugees has become a real “theological place.” That’s how I see it, a theological place. Pedro Arrupe right here in Thailand in his last speech reaffirmed the importance of this mission. Arrupe was a prophet to me: his ‘swan song’ was the foundation, right here in Bangkok, of the Jesuit Refugee Service. Then, during the flight to Rome from Thailand, he suffered a stroke.”
“The phenomenon of refugees has always existed, but today it is better known because of social differences, hunger, political tensions and especially war. For these reasons, migratory movements are intensifying. What is the answer the world gives? The policy of waste. Refugees are waste material. The Mediterranean has been turned into a cemetery. The notorious cruelty of some detention centers in Libya touches my heart. Here in Asia, we all know the problem of the Rohingya. I must admit that I am shocked by some of the narratives I hear in Europe about borders. Populism is gaining strength.”
“In other parts, there are walls that even separate children from parents,” Pope Francis said in an oblique reference to President Trump’s policies on the southern border, suggesting that the policies will ultimately fail. “Herod comes to mind. Yet for drugs, there’s no wall to keep them out.”
King Herod, also known as Herod the Great, was a Roman client king of Judea. Herod’s family were converts to Judaism and his religious commitment was questioned by some elements of Jewish society. While Herod publicly identified himself as a Jew and was considered as such by some, this religious identification was undermined by the decadent lifestyle of the Herodians, which would have earned them the antipathy of observant Jews. Herod later executed several members of his own family, including his wife Mariamne.
The account of the Massacre of the Innocents in the New Testament, in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus, Herod gave orders to kill all boys of the age of two and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity.
“As I told you, the phenomenon of migration is compounded by war, hunger and a ‘defensive mindset,’ which makes us in a state of fear believe that you can defend yourself only by strengthening borders. At the same time, there is exploitation.
The Pope also met with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes. During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration which declares that all religions should unify.