On January 27, President Trump issued an executive order indefinitely banning refugees from Syria, and placing a 90-day suspension on immigrants entering the country from seven other predominantly Muslim nations. Two days later, Boston College President Fr. William Leahy and other top university officials joined the ranks of higher education administrators who spoke out against the ban. In an email sent out to the entire Boston College community, the administrators clearly stated their opposition:
“We write as senior leaders at Boston College to object to this directive, which has already had disturbing effects on individuals and families” they began. They went on to explain how “Boston College was founded in 1863 to educate the children of immigrants and, like our nation, has gained so much from the presence and contributions of faculty, students, and staff born in other countries.” It is often a forgotten fact that BC was founded to educate the Irish Catholic immigrants which no other institution would take. But, according to Leahy, it is this fact in part that makes it so essential that we remember the special place we ought to hold for immigrants still today.
The letter also noted the way in which the so-called “Muslim ban” directly contradicts BC’s mission as a Jesuit university. The administration reminded the BC community that “the Judeo-Christian faith tradition emphasizes the necessity of caring for strangers and those in need” and went on to quote Pope Francis, saying, "It's hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help. . . In putting ourselves at the service of the neediest, we will experience that we are already united; it is God's mercy that unites us."
Following the executive order the Muslim Student Association also organized a silent protest on O’Neill plaza to offer a space for students to show their solidarity with those who may be affected by the ban. Professor Stephen Pope of the Theology Department spoke at the rally about the same ideas stated in the letter to the university--that banning refugees from any group of people who wish to enter the United States is not only unjust but un-Christian. Following the event, Pope stated: “I speak as a theologian and a core value of the Bible is hospitality for strangers and compassion for those who are suffering. How you treat the alien among you can be used as a litmus test for how you are doing overall [in terms of following biblical ethics].” He quoted Leviticus 19:34, which says, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
Pope pointed to the political discourse of fear as the primary motivation for policies such as the Muslim ban, saying that sadly “Americans don’t have the ability to distinguish between valid and invalid fears.”
In order to combat this discourse of fear, and oppose the actions of President Trump in trying to keep refugees out of our nation, Pope noted the goodness of the actions of the administration, calling the university-wide email a “letter of reassurance” letting everyone know that BC is indeed willing to stand on the side of solidarity with those who may be affected by the actions of the current presidential administration.
Finally, when asked what students can do moving forward to continue walking in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, Pope offered one simple word of advice: be informed. He said that one of the biggest problems he sees amongst BC students is “indifference and apathy.” He encouraged us to get outside of our comfort zones: get out of our normal cliques and visit a mosque, take a class about Islam, or learn about how to oppose Islamophobia.