The train was crowded, and every seat was filled. The young woman politely asked if the seat next to me was available. It took some time for the train to get underway. In the meantime, she turned on the overhead light and started reading. After the train started moving, she got up and went to the club car where the lighting was brighter. She stayed there for a long time before returning to her seat.
After she sat down again, we struck up a conversation. I learned that her family originally was from Ethiopia. They had emigrated first to Mississippi and then to New Jersey, where she earned her college degree. She had heard about the job opportunities in the Triangle and applied for a job in Raleigh. She liked the lively downtown atmosphere and the loads of activities for young professionals. She was happy in North Carolina and not particularly interested in its politics.
We chatted for some time before lapsing into silence as the hours got later. I last saw her leaving Raleigh Union Station. I wondered how a beautiful young African-American felt about the Deep South, and she admitted that it was a challenge at times. Raleigh was much more progressive, and she felt that her race was not an issue.
With all the current hysteria about immigrants of color, I guessed that the transition of her family might be more difficult today. I also thought of another immigrant family who fled to Egypt to escape persecution. Although they later returned to Palestine, Egypt and Ethiopia became early adopters of Christianity and fostered the developed the Coptic branch of the religion. Although Christians are now a threatened minority in these Muslim nations, many ancient churches still survive. According to tradition, one even holds the sacred chalice of Christ.
People have searched the scriptures in the Old Testament of the Jewish tradition of hospitality that was prevalent in the first century. Then we had the Crusades and now the civil wars in the Middle East. The refugee crisis in Syria has overrun European countries that struggle to cope with the influx of millions of people. America seem to be threatened by a few thousand refugees on our southern border. Let’s face it, the real issue is racism and not security.
We are a nation of immigrants. During the 18th Century, they came exclusively from Europe. For most of the 19th Century, the people came from Europe or China. In the 20th Century, we attracted people from all over the world, primarily because of better economic and educational opportunities than in the less developed nations. We put up lots of barriers to protect ourselves, but people still come in spite of our overt hostility at times. Why?
Because for generations we were the beacon of hope in a world filled with wars and lack of economic opportunity. Poverty exists in this country but not in the same extent as in many other countries, such as India.
Jesus was a Jew and a Palestinian. Would we welcome him today?