In his address to alumni of a Jesuit high school in 1973, Father Pedro Arrupe stated that the “prime educational objective must be to form men [and women] for others.” Does this sound familiar? Since you are reading this, it can be assumed that you are affiliated with Canisius in some way; you probably know that this phrase, “men and women for others,” is used frequently by Canisius to promote its mission. Canisius is not the only Jesuit institution that uses this message as a common theme in their media, teaching, and promotion, but nonetheless, it feels very special to the Canisius campus climate. This message permeates everywhere, from our hallways to our marketing material to the Intro to Philosophy classes taken by each freshman. From the time you start at Canisius, you are expected to be with (and for, for that matter) others.
On January 27 of this year, President Trump signed an executive order that the media has been calling the “Muslim Ban.” This document, which consists of eleven sections, outlines that individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia are banned from entering the United States for a 90-day period. On top of that, the order prohibits the United States from allowing individuals fleeing from the war in Syria to enter our borders indefinitely, as well as banning any refugees from entering for four months.
Section 1 of the order states that “deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States.” In particular, this statement is referencing the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. However, the nine countries included in the ban are not the countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt) that are connected to 9/11 in any way. Just something to think about.
While the order is, of course, shocking, it’s almost more shocking to see how Canisius has chosen to handle the disturbing ban.
While schools in the area, as well as throughout the entire country, have released statements standing in solidarity with the students on their campuses from the countries on the list, the administrators at Canisius have remained completely silent.
John J. Hurley, president of Canisius has not always chosen to stay silent in times of turmoil. In December, he joined other Jesuit schools in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) in signing a document publicly supporting undocumented students on campus. He released a statement after he signed urging faculty and staff to reach out to those who are undocumented at Canisius and offer them consolation and support. However, this was as far as Hurley has chosen to in terms of publically supporting different groups of students on campus.
So far, this silence has been chalked up to the fact that Canisius doesn’t have any students hailing from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, or Somalia. Apparently, since nobody on the campus is directly affected, the responsibility to make make a statement of support has been dissolved. Since it’s not happening to us, it doesn’t matter if we take a stand on what’s happening.
With this statement of complete silence echoing through the campus, the question remains: are we really men and women for others?
Even though we don’t have any enrolled students from the countries on the list, we work with individuals from those countries through service learning, Community Day, and other Canisius-promoted events on a regular basis. Canisius students have formed meaningful bonds with people who, under Trump’s executive order, are now considered illegal. Students have listened to their stories of horror and felt connected, in a small way, to the lives of people who Trump says don’t matter at all. Do these connections deserve a statement?
Furthermore, the Canisius community is in the heart of Buffalo, one of the areas in the country most heavily populated with refugees. However, for the next four months, people fleeing from war and terror will not be able to seek refuge in this place that is home to so many. No, Canisius students may not be from the countries affected, but look one mile in any direction and you will find someone who is. Canisius actively tries to promote students going out into the Buffalo community and connecting to the people here, but this silence is sending the message that although we can go out into the community, their lives are not worth as much as ours. In his address, Father Arrupe goes on to explain the importance of creating “men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors.” Are we really for our neighbors? Are we really with them?
While it’s true that Canisius doesn’t have students from the nine countries on the list, it’s also true that we are home to many undocumented students. Of course, undocumented individuals are not the same as refugees (are not the same as asylum seekers, are not the same at Green-Card holders), but both groups have be frequently been unwelcomed in the same ways. Canisius claims to be in solidarity with students who are undocumented but denies a statement of support to those who are oppressed in some of the same ways. Although it would be wrong to speak on behalf of all undocumented students at Canisius, some sort of statement would solidify the unity between the Canisius administration and undocumented individuals who reside here. Sure, we’re for one group, but why are we not for another group?
Once again, we are behind the trend, with 21 of the 27 other Jesuit colleges and universities across the nation having already released publish statements of concern about the implications of President Trump’s executive order. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., President of Loyola University, New Orleans, offered this to his campus: “Although only a few in our community have been directly impacted, this order is something that affects us all to our core…. Not only is the turning away of refugees in direct conflict with our Catholic, Jesuit values, but it is also contrary to our American ideals and constitutional rights as a free country that welcomes immigrants and does not discriminate on the basis of religion or national origin.”
As we move forward, this paper would like to call the Canisius community together in recognizing the hypocrisy of our administration. We are challenged to be men and women for others, but when it actually comes time to take a stand, those who have the power to say something say nothing at all. In their silence, one message is clear: they are men and women for themselves.