The recent use of the phrase "ethnic cleansing" in the context of the Catholic diocese's closing of buildings and the realigning of services made my blood boil.
We have people in Buffalo who have been the victims of genuine and gruesome ethnic cleansing.
We have Rwandans who fled in fear for their lives and had family members slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands were killed.
They have been welcomed in Buffalo Catholic churches like St. Ann's, Holy Cross and Our Lady of Loreto, among others.
What has the president of the Buffalo Common Council done to welcome them?
We have Bosnian refugees who were expurgated from the Balkans. They have been resettled here by Catholic Charities. These are true victims of ethnic cleansing.
What has the president of the Common Council done to resettle refugees?
We have Somali Bantu who were targeted for their ethnicity and had to be vacated from the horn of Africa. (Most resettled here through the Journey's End program). Some are being educated at Catholic Central School.
What has the president of the Common Council done to support such education for them?
I wonder what would happen if the president of the Common Council were to look into the eyes of a man who stood up to a mob that wanted to kill his wife's nephews because they were a different ethnic group. As a consequence, he and all his family had to flee his country.
Could the president of the Common Council try to explain to him that "ethnic cleansing" was occurring right here in Buffalo?
I wonder: If he could look in the eyes of a woman now here in the area who had a child macheted on her back as she fled through the bush, or a girl who has witnessed housemates beheaded, both because of their ethnicity, would he insist on comparing the suffering of himself and his constituents to theirs?
Shame on him and his compatriots. (At least the Common Council member from our district objected to the language.) The comparison to the suffering of these resettled folks is horrific and absurd!
Many of our forebears, too, would have understood the real context of oppression: the Irish who underwent the famine that cost half the country's population; the Holocaust perpetrated in Central and Eastern Europe; indeed, the Cherokee or Cayuga and other Native Americans driven from their homes and lands; or even the expurgation of Poland from the maps through the entire 19th century until the end of World War I.
What would the heroes of those times and places, a Meagher or a Paderewski, think of this reference to "ethnic cleansing?"
Sir, have you no decency?
The Rev. James F. Joyce, S.J., is pastor of St. Ann's Parish and canonical administrator of Catholic Central School.