In consultation with the Honpa Hongwanji Committee on Social Concerns, Bishop Eric Matsumoto is re-releasing his “Statement Against the Separation of Families,” originally issued on June 20, 2018.
While an executive order (coincidentally also issued on June 20, 2018) purportedly ended family separation at the border, in the year that followed, immigration authorities separated over 900 migrant children from their families (New York Times 07/30/19).
Bishop Matsumoto began his 2018 statement by quoting from the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” On August 13, 2019, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services suggested different wording: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge” (NPR 08/13/19).
Here, again, is the Bishop’s statement:
From the Office of the Bishop,
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii
Statement Against the Separation of Families
June 20, 2018
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” In just a few words, the above, which is found on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, summarizes for many around the world, past, present and future, what America represents, promises, is and should be. As human beings, as people, we all need hope. As a nation, are we going back on our promise to the world? I hope not.
From a Buddhist perspective, both the process and end result are important. The procedure of how matters are handled is as important as the outcome. While the current policies of our nation do not outright deny individuals and families entry into the United States, the procedure must be more compassionate and should not be tearing families apart. The bond between parent(s) and child(ren) is one of the most, if not the most, precious relationships a person can have especially when young. The policy of Zero Tolerance is too extreme. As Americans, I believe, we have pride in that we are a just and fair nation. We may not be perfect, but in our interactions around the globe, we have tried to uphold this standard which is becoming of a world leader.
Our Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition has a long history of valuing human life, seeing the importance of relationships including with the natural environment and emphasizing inclusiveness as evidenced by the Great Vows of Amida (Amitabha-Amitayus) Buddha and writings of Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin, our foremost spiritual leaders.
Although the circumstances may have been a little different, I also draw from the past experiences of a segment of our Buddhist membership who, because of their (Japanese) ethnic and national origins, had to unfairly experience separation from family during the last great world war. There was, and for some still remain, so much pain and trauma from the separation. It is a circumstance that should not be repeated for anyone. Is it not one of our basic understandings in America that the family is the backbone of our nation? We need strong individuals and families being guided by universal values to be a better nation and world.
A quote from the Metta Sutra reads, “May all life be happy. May they be joyous and live in safety. All life, whether weak or strong, in high or middle or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born. May all life be happy. Let none deceive another nor despise any life in any state; Let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another. Even as a mother at the risk of her life watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all life, suffusing love over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit; so let us cultivate an infinite goodwill toward the whole world.”
As such, with this statement, I express my lament and express my ardent wish that we rescind the Zero Tolerance Policy and its ramifications which result in separating families. May we become a more just, fair and compassionate nation.
Eric Matsumoto, Bishop
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii
Photo by US Government (U.S. Customs and Border Control) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. source »