We thank Bishop David for sending this letter directly to Orthodoxy in Dialogue for publication.
While the President has signed an executive order halting the separation of children from their parents at the border, it remains unclear what impact—if any—this will have on the children who have already been separated. The order also seems to allow for the indefinite internment of families in detention centres.
I agree with you that our borders are important and that we need to be vigilant against those who would try to enter our country to do us harm. What I cannot agree with is the disruption of families in the name of security. No child willingly leaves the love and protection of their parents. No parent who is worthy of the name would willingly let their child be separated from them. What gain do you expect when your actions are contrary to nature and even God’s divine commands? Where is the good that is done when a child is taken from their mother or father in the name of “National Security?”
Mr. President, you have done many good works and inaugurated many helpful and positive policies. You and your administration do seem to have the best interests of our country at heart. So why now would you destroy your good work by enacting a policy that will harm innocent children for the rest of their lives?
Recently, your Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, invoked St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 13 to call us to obedience. I would caution you, sir, that invoking God in such a situation can be detrimental instead of helpful when the purpose is to stop dissent from the people. And I would remind you that the Gospel of St. Matthew has a more fitting verse for this situation:
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mt 18:6)
I urge you, Mr. President, to cease this reckless policy. I understand that the parents who bring their children to such a situation bear some of the responsibility and that they should have thought more about it. I agree that those who wish to come to our county should do so in a legal and orderly manner. But I also see that what is now happening at our border is far from Christian behavior on both sides of the issue. I beg you, please reconsider and find a better solution. You need the wisdom of Solomon here, not the force of Saul.
Our country has not been in such a dire situation since the Civil War of the 1860s. Then, people took strong positions and refused to compromise, and this is what we see happening to us today. The result was the loss of thousands of lives and destroyed homes, cities, and livelihoods. I would like to believe that we are beyond waging such a war again in the name of “our rights,” but this does not mean that we still cannot destroy our country by other means. Indeed both political parties need to reflect on our current situation and come together for the good of the country. If your only concern, be you Democrat or Republican, is to win, then we have all lost.
I would also take the time to remind our leaders that this is not the first time that there has been a lack of concern for children. I am referring to the internment of the Aleuts in World War II. Who cared about the children then, who were being torn from their homes and put in deplorable camps, while German POWs a few miles away were treated with respect and given every comfort? Many children died during the internment. The rest were scarred for life with memories of starvation, unsanitary living conditions, and death. Surely we do not wish to repeat the errors of the past, do we? What has happened to “No child left behind”?
In closing, Mr. President, I confess that I am not sure what the truth is about children at the border. Our media seem bent on destroying your presidency by hook or by crook. What I do know is that we are, or at least were, a great country founded on biblical principles. There are not many places where we still honor those principles, but surely wherever children are concerned, we want what is best for them. Our resources are many, our care for others is unmatched anywhere else in the world, so let us put them to a good and productive use in showing compassion on those who are less fortunate. I plead with you, do not divide families, it only harms them and puts a stain on our nation.
May God continue to bless you and give you wisdom to make the right choices for our nation.
Your servant of servants,
+ David, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska
Bishop David (Mahaffey) has been the ruling hierarch of the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska, the original diocese of the Orthodox Church in America, since 2014. You may read his full biography here.
A blessed Apostles Fast to our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
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