Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dear Pope Francis

Hello, this is Steve Kimes, a Mennonite pastor among the homeless in Portland Oregon.

I just want to let you know that I'm a fan.  I'm a fan of anyone representing Jesus by speaking to power about the needs of the poor.  And not only do you speak, but you act.  Visiting the homeless, establishing shelters... you're my kinda guy.  Great that you've got such a megaphone to speak the true word of God.

I'm sure you've noticed, though, that some people are representing you but don't have your same heart, or vision for the needy.  There are churches that I know where the congregation has to hide the homeless from their priests so the priests won't call the police to get the homeless out of their area.  There are bishops who block funds to help the poor to support building and other projects instead.  I know times are financially hard for the church.  But you know that the poor should always be priority, otherwise why should our doors be open?  We should not be dissuading the poor, but giving them respect and hope.   But you know all that.  And from your position, you can't solve all the issues of your church.  I get it.

But today I hear the news that for your visit in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, the city that was named after the persecuted and poor church in the book of Revelation, the mayor is planning on sweeping out the homeless who are sleeping on the site that you are speaking.  In your name, they are going to get rid of the poor from your presence, from the presence of Christ in the mass, because they are unworthy to be there.  They might allow "a few" of the homeless to remain, but be rid of the majority of those who, more than any, belong there.

I wouldn't say anything about this, but they are doing it for you, and this is opposed to everything you have said about the poor.  I am hoping that you won't stand for it.

I also want to point out one other item:  This photo of the mayor of Philly helping his security guard hold down a homeless man.  The homeless man just wanted to talk to the mayor, and to let him know how unfair it is for him to force the homeless out of their sleeping spots for your visit.  And for his boldness, he was abused, and the mayor helped.

This is a symbol of the homeless in America.

In every major city in the US, the homeless are abused, not by the states or by the federal government, but by the cities, by the mayor and the police.  The homeless have their tents and sleeping gear stolen from them on the orders of mayors.  They are forced to move from their location, and given no other place to be, for it is illegal to be homeless in almost every city in the U.S.  And in many cities, it is illegal for the homeless to sit, to lie down to sleep, to ask for money.  Because these women and families and men are poor, they are being abused and harmed.  This picture of the mayor is exactly what is happening to all the homeless of the United States.  We have a secret third world here in one of the wealthiest nations of the world, and for our troubles we are being abused by the local governments.

Dr. Susan Fiske, a highly respected sociologist, explains it this way:  The homeless is the social group that is most put into the category of "disgust."  She says that when the average American sees a homeless person, they see, not a human being, but "a pile of garbage."  And so the cities of the United States treat the homeless as garbage.  As something to be moved, not a human being to be cared for.

I want to ask you this: Please speak to the plight of the homeless.  A Red Cross worker called the homeless situation the constant state of emergency that isn't treated like an emergency.  But if you could take your megaphone and call our cities to justice.  To support us would mean a lot.  I don't expect an overnight turnaround, but if you could speak to the issue, we would all appreciate it, here in the foxholes.

In Philadelphia, could you have a special mass for the homeless?  Could you invite them into your presence, invite them into the presence of the body and blood of Christ?  Could you show the mayor and all the mayors how the homeless should be treated, with dignity and opportunity?

I write this with tears in my eyes because over the last twenty years I have seen the homeless beaten, attacked by dogs, tased multiple times, lit on fire, their corpses abused and left without burial for months, and arrested not only by the local governments but by the community and the church.  All for the "crime" of being poor.  Please, help us in our fight against oppression.

Thanks, Steve Kimes

No comments:

Post a Comment