ROME — Pope Francis denounced the use of barbed wire to keep migrants out as a “form of hatred” Friday, insisting that the West is responsible for the “universal enslavement” of migrants.
In some places, “barbed wire is set up to prevent the entrance of refugees, those who come in search of freedom, food, assistance, fraternity, joy, those fleeing from hatred but then find themselves facing a form of hatred called barbed wire,” the pope said during a meeting with migrants during his visit to the island nation of Cyprus.
Looking at you, I think of “all those people who had to return because they were turned away and ended up in concentration camps, real concentration camps, where the women have been sold, and men tortured and enslaved,” he told them, while insisting that such horrors stem from the indifference of “the West.”
“I see all those people who were kidnapped, sold, exploited… and who are still on the journey, we know not where,” the pontiff said. “We are speaking of slavery, of universal enslavement. We see what is happening, and the worst thing is that we are becoming used to it.”
“We are appalled when we read stories of the concentration camps of the last century, those of the Nazis or those of Stalin, and we say: ‘How could this possibly have happened?’ Brothers and sisters, it is happening today, on nearby coasts! Places of enslavement,” he said.
“I have seen some filmed testimonies about this: places of torture and human trafficking,” he continued. “I say all this because it is my responsibility to help open people’s eyes to this reality. Forced migration is not a kind of ‘tourism’!”
“This is today’s war: the suffering of our brothers and sisters, which we cannot pass over in silence,” Francis said.
“And all those who were turned away and ended up in the concentration camps, true places of torture and enslavement,” he said. “Such is the story of this developed civilization that we call the West.”
“Excuse me if I have spoken of things as they really are, but we cannot remain silent and look the other way amid this culture of indifference,” he declared.
Employing more theological language, the pope said that Jesus Christ identifies with today’s migrants, while God “dreams” of a world without walls.
We encounter the Lord Jesus “in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters,” he said. “In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage, exploited.”
God himself dreams “of a humanity freed of walls of division, freed of hostility, where there are no longer strangers, but only fellow citizens,” he said. “Fellow citizens who are diverse, yet proud of that diversity and individuality, which are God’s gifts.
It is close-mindedness and prejudice that “re-erect the wall of division, the hostility between us, that Christ tore down,” he asserted.
“God speaks through your dreams. God does not speak through people who are dreamless, because they have everything or because their hearts are hardened,” he said.