Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stranger in a strange land

Exodus, continued: Yesterday and today, I have been reading all of the instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant. I will readily admit that I am not planning on building the Ark of the Covenant so my eyes have been glazing over a bit.
Before I started on the Ark of the Covenant, I read these bits of advice:
Exodus 22:20: You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 23:9: Also you shall not oppress a resident alien, for you know the heart of a resident alien, because you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.
I find that to be helpful advice on welcoming foreigners. The advice on not mistreating or oppressing strangers and aliens could not be clearer.
Is that advice followed today?
What do you think?
In my opinion, the answer is no. A few days ago, I read in The Buffalo News about Major Jan Mohammad Arash of Afghanistan, who fled a training program in Cape Cod, along with two other Afghan officers. The three were looking to cross the border into Canada and seek political asylum there. They never made it to Canada. They were placed in a federal detention facility in Batavia, New York. Last Friday, Major Arash went to immigration court, where his request to stay in the United States was denied. Major Arash fears that, when he is deported to Afghanistan, he faces torture and persecution. The immigration judge, Steven J. Connelly, ruled that the United Nations' Convention Against Torture does not apply in this case because the Taliban, who would be the likely torturers, is not the official governing body of Afghanistan.
Does the fact that the torturers do not represent the governing body of a country make that particular torture any less of a human rights violation?
Is it a human rights violation to deport someone to a country where he is very likely to be tortured and persecuted?
Is it right to practice justice without any evidence of mercy? Are justice and mercy mutually exclusive? 
By sending someone to a country where he is very likely to be mistreated, is the government of this country (the United States) participating in mistreatment and oppression?
I believe that, in Exodus, the advice is to do otherwise. 
So many questions, so few answers.
I will keep reading.