Following the recent death of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, Fr. James Martin, SJ offered his thoughts:
I want to point out that blaming the victim, or the victim’s parents, is a terrible, and indeed sinful, perversion of Jesus’s Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37).
Remember that in Jesus’s parable a man takes the Road to Jericho and is set upon by robbers and is beaten and left for dead. In Jesus’s time, the Jericho Road was notoriously dangerous, filled with twists and turns, and bordered by tall hills (which are all still part of the road today) that made it easy for robbers to lie in wait for someone. That is, the Road to Jericho was widely known to be extremely dangerous.
Thereupon, two people pass by the dying man–a priest and a Levite–and do not help him. Finally, a Samaritan (a man from a religious group widely hated by many of the Jewish people) passes by and chooses to help the man, binding up his wounds and taking him to the nearest inn.
Notice what the Samaritan does not do: He does not say to the beaten man, “You fool! You should have never taken the Road to Jericho! You knew how dangerous it was. I’m sorry, but that’s what happens when you do something like that!” Also, the Samaritan, realizing the danger he is in, does not leave him to die.
Notice too that the Samaritan cares for the man even though there is risk involved: he is stopping alongside a dangerous road himself, where the robbers could attack and beat him as well. Thus, he helps the dying man even though there is risk to his own person.
In short, the Samaritan does not blame the stranger in need, he helps him.
It’s profoundly disheartening to hear so many people blame the migrant parents of Jakelin Caal, who were in fact trying to find a good life for their little girl. That’s why they undertook their exodus to the border. It’s even more disheartening to hear people say, “Well, they broke the law, and that’s what happens. They should have known better. Let that be a lesson to everyone!”
First of all, seeking asylum is a human right. Second, seeking asylum is legal. And third, Jesus calls us to help the stranger–even if it’s inconvenient, even if there’s risk involved, and, yes, even if you still think the person is still somehow “breaking the law.”
For as Jesus shows us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, there is a higher law involved. And it involves not blame, but charity.
“I was a stranger,” said Jesus, “and you did not welcome me.” (Mt 25).