At the World Youth Day in Brazil, Pope Francis asked young people to “create a world of brothers and sisters.” He also visited one of Rio’s notorious favelas (slums) to call attention to the poor, disenfranchised and marginalized.
What a message for our youth today: Love all people as a brother or sister and stop chasing material happiness to the detriment of those with less.
Pretty counter-cultural stuff. Do we as the parents and grandparents of today’s youth support these ideals? Do we show our love for our enemies by our words and actions? Do we support global justice? Where do we stand on immigration reform? These are not easy questions to answer. Who amongst us wants less for our own children? Isn’t the American Dream a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward mobility? But should our personal success and upward mobility be at the expense of our brothers and sisters? As Christians shouldn’t we have a preference for the poor? Francis gives us much to ponder.
It’s hard sometimes to think globally. It’s too big. Too distant. It’s too removed from my world. It’s easy to dismiss Darfur or Egypt or the slums of Rio. But what about my brothers and sisters in my own community?
Recently two failing school districts in Saint Louis have requested help from other districts, one being the district in which I reside. Because these failing districts have lost their accreditation students graduating from their high schools find acceptance at colleges and universities nearly impossible. There is a myriad of reasons for these failures but mostly it is economic and poor kids are suffering. So while the Pope is imploring our youth to reach out to those in need; to create a world of brothers and sisters, some Christians in my community are fighting to keep these “unwanted students” out of our schools. There are concerns about property values, violence and drugs entering our school systems. This matter is further complicated by the fact that these two predominately black districts have requested help from two predominately white districts.
I understand and appreciate concerns for the safety of our children. I also realize that these are complex issues that the local media has reduced to sound-bites. But how can we foster “a world of brothers and sisters” across the ocean when we can’t peacefully and lovingly accept those brothers and sisters across the river? What would Jesus do?
I think that Francis is telling us. And I suspect that more prayer will be required…