Between Donald Trump and Pope Francis
As the seemingly irrepressible presidential campaign of American Republican frontrunner Donald Trump shows no signs of running out of steam as a rabble rouser par excellence, the 69-year old real estate mogul continues to receive an increasing number of attacks from his critics over his controversial views on subjects ranging from immigration to Islam.
Whilst he has so far taken all the barbs in his stride like his unwarranted attack on Nigerians living and working in the United States, he now faces his most influential critic yet in Pope Francis, the head of 1.5 billion-strong Catholic Church.
In a freewheeling conversation on his flight home on 17 February from a pastoral visit to Mexico, Pope Francis told reporters, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” The pontiff’s remarks were in regards to Trump’s claim that if he became president he would build an $8billion wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out immigrants who entered illegally as if his forebears were not immigrants.
Trump might claim to be a Christian but some of his comments are unchristian which has predisposed him to playing the politics of exclusivity, racism and antagonism, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. After all Hitler too was a Christian, but we all know the outcome of his diatribe and xenophobic demagoguery against the Jews that bothered on anti-Semitism. If only he had listened to Pope Pius XII who warned him to stop such hate speeches, the Jewish holocaust would have been averted.
History has shown that Trump’s type of wall may not be impregnable after all as it was for the unconquerable walled city of Jericho, a physical wall that was built by the Canaanites which the Israelites through divine assistance demolished on their way to the Promised Land in Canaan. The Wall of Jericho therefore failed to achieve its desired purpose.
In ancient China, the people desired security from the barbaric hordes to the north so they built the Great Wall of China. It was too high to climb over, too thick to break down and too long to go round. Security was achieved. The only problem was that during the first hundred years of the walls’ existence, China was invaded three times. Was the wall a failure? Not really—for not once did the barbaric hordes climb over the wall, break it down or go round it. They simply bribed a gatekeeper, and then marched right in through a gate. The fatal flaw in the Chinese defence was placing too much reliance on a wall. Today China is not relying so much on border controls, but building bridges across the world to cement international relations as part of her foreign policy thrust.
During the summer of 1961 East German police, instigated by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, tried to turn back the surge of East Germans fleeing to West Germany. When tighter travel restrictions failed, the police erected twenty- six miles of barbed wire and concrete running like an ugly scar across the face of the city. Furious Berliners labelled it Schandmaurer, a wall of shame.
The Berlin Wall which came to symbolise the “Iron Curtain” that separated Western Europe from the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. In November 1989 the impossible happened. This impregnable fortress, this thirty-eight year old structure was reduced to rubbles by passionate young men. Jubilant women in the glow of television cameras waved flags and grand fathers in the shadows, felt tears of joy rushing down their cheeks as they watched the destruction of the primary symbol of a divided world. The Cold War was over which ushered in the era of globalisation.
Communication satellites launched in the 1980s drew people everywhere closer together. This is what the Pope meant by building bridges. After the Second World War when world leaders came together to advance the course of peace, it was suggested that the Pope should be invited to participate, but the Russian leader, Stalin opposed it, asking: “How many military divisions does the Pope command?” Eventually it was the Pope’s peace efforts that led to the formation of the United Nations and the drawing up of a Marshal Plan for the rebuilding of a devastated Europe. Have we also forgotten that it was the Pope that set the agenda for world leaders to take a closer look on the hazardous effects of climate change.
The question is how did eleven million undocumented immigrants find their way into America? And will deporting them not create a humanitarian problem or will regularising their stay be a panacea to solving it since they are descendants of those taken into slavery in America? Is there no alternative solution in the light of divine mercy.
Now, why should Trump try to reopen old wounds when it is recalled that the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended and specified the major consequence of the war between America and Mexico: the Mexican Cession of the territories of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México to the United States in exchange for $15 million? In addition, the United States assumed $3.25 million of debt owed by the Mexican government to U.S. citizens. Mexico recognised the loss of Texas and thereafter cited the Rio Grande as its national border with the United States.
Perhaps, Trump may want to also scrap the state of New Mexico in the US if he really wants to build a wall and return Texas (which America annexed) to Mexico. Why is he not talking of building walls along the Canadian border or the Alaska border, Alaska having been purchased from Russia in 1867? Why is he not commending Obama for his plans to close detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba?
We pray for a peaceful coexistence between United States and Mexico in the true collaborative spirit of the Organization of American States where such does not exist as “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” (Martin Luther King Jr.). But anyone can stroll through the Pope’s front yard — St. Peter’s Square — at nearly any time. Only metal detectors stand between the iconic landmark and the millions of tourists and visiting pilgrims who come to see the historic headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
Isu, a Chartered Accountant (Fellow) writes from Abuja.
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