Dignidad Humana - Un Valor Compartido

Photo by Laura Bohorquez

Laura Bohorquez was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She traveled to Dubuque, IA to study at Loras College, where she became involved in interfaith work through Children of Abraham dialogues, Better Together, the Interfaith Leadership Institute and IFYC’s National Organizing Team. She continued her education with a master's degree in International Relations at the University of Chicago. An immigrant herself, Laura is passionate about her work to educate immigrant families on their rights and help them find the resources they need to thrive at the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Joliet in Illinois. She has written the below piece in both Spanish and English.

Estas últimas semanas han sido difíciles para todos; para unos más que otros. Para los inmigrantes indocumentados (igual que otras comunidades vulnerables), las crisis relacionadas con el covid-19 no paran, pero las posibilidades de encontrar una solución son escasas.

Trabajo para Caridades Católicas de la Diocesis de Joliet en un programa que provee educación, asistencia y referencias para inmigrantes que usualmente no pueden encontrar ayuda en otros lugares porque no tienen un número de seguridad social. Generalmente recibo llamadas de familias que han tocado muchas puertas y nuestro programa es su última esperanza . Yo solía poder ayudarles a encontrar la asistencia que necesitan sin los obstáculos que suelen encontrar. Sin embargo, durante la época de covid-19, los fondos para las necesidades de estas familias son limitados, y sus necesidades no dejan de crecer. 

Ahora recibo varias llamadas al día de familias desesperadas por encontrar dinero para sus necesidades básicas, especialmente la renta, los servicios públicos, y los pagos del carro. Aunque no siempre puedo pagar sus deudas, puedo recurrir a la fe y la conexión humana para ayudar a nuestros clientes. He aprendido que encontrar a alguien que los escuche es mitad de su batalla. Tan solo poder hablar en su idioma y expresar sus necesidades más profundas les ayuda a recordar que importan. Los puedo referir a otras ayudas y ofrecer algunas tarjetas para comida, pero muchas veces lo único que podemos hacer es dejar los problemas en manos de Dios. Después de compartir detalles personales y a veces lágrimas, acabamos la conversación con un "Dios lo bendiga" y la promesa de que estaré ahí para ellos si lo necesitan.

Una de las cosas que más admiro del Catolicismo es su Doctrina Social, fundada en la creencia de que todos los seres humanos tienen una dignidad inherente. La Hermana Norma Pimentel, Directora Ejecutiva de Caridades Católicas del Valle del Rio Grande, describe su trabajo con migrantes como la restauración de la dignidad de quienes han sido maltratados y han experimentado trauma. Quiero reconocer y defender la dignidad en cada interacción con las familias que llaman a mi oficina. No obstante, se que el Catolicismo no está solo en esta creencia.

Gracias a mis experiencias interreligiosas, he podido reconocer que otras religiones y denominaciones también enseñan que la dignidad humana es sagrada, y veo ejemplos de eso en los esfuerzos de alivio del covid-19. Aunque no he trabajado con ellos directamente, organizaciones como World Relief, Islamic Circle of North America, IL Muslim Civic Coalition, Syrian Community Network, y otras comunidades Sikh, Cristianas, Musulmanas y Judías están cuidando a las familias inmigrantes de todos los países y religiones. Ofrecen su ayuda a través de recaudo de fondos, cursos virtuales, servicios de salud mental, despensas de comidas interreligiosas, y muchas más. Me emociona que cada día puedo contar con mis comunidades católicas e interreligiosas para darle el mejor servicio posible a las familias.

Puede que de asistencia directa a las familias inmigrantes o las refiera a otras organizaciones, pero mis conversaciones con ellos me han mostrado que ser tratado con dignidad, respeto y conexión humana es tan necesario como la comida, la renta, o los servicios públicos. Y es lo mínimo que puedo hacer por ellos.

Human Dignity - A Shared Value: English Translation

These past few weeks have been hard for all of us; for some more than others. For undocumented immigrants (just like most other vulnerable communities), the crises related to Covid-19 keep coming, but the possibilities for solutions are scarce. 

I work for Catholic Charities in a program that provides education, assistance, and referrals for immigrants who usually cannot find help elsewhere because they lack a Social Security Number. Generally, I get calls from families who have knocked on many doors and our program is their last hope. I used to be able to help them get assistance by overcoming the roadblocks that they encounter. However, during the age of Covid-19, funding for these families’ needs is limited, while the need is ever-growing. 

Now I get several calls a day from families desperate to get money for basic needs, especially rent, utilities, and car payments. Although I am not always able to pay their bills, I have found that I can still resort to faith and human connection to uplift my clients. I have learned that finding someone to listen is half of the battle. Just being able to speak in their language and feel free to express their deepest needs helps them remember they matter. 

I can give them some referrals and gift cards for food, but many times all we can do is leave their issues in God’s hands. After sharing very personal details and sometimes tears, we end the conversation with a “God bless you” and the promise that I will be there for them if they need it. 

One of the things I admire the most about Catholicism is its Social Teaching, founded on the belief that all human beings have inherent dignity. Sister Norma Pimentel, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, describes her work with migrants as restoring the human dignity of those who have been mistreated and experienced trauma. I seek to recognize and uphold that dignity in every interaction with the families that call my office. However, I know that Catholicism is not alone in this belief.  

Because of my interfaith experiences, I have been able to recognize that other religions and denominations also hold the dignity of all humans sacred, and I can see examples of this in their Covid-19 relief efforts; organizations like World Relief, Islamic Circle of North America, IL Muslim Civic Coalition, Syrian Community Network, and other Sikh, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious communities are taking care of immigrant families from all backgrounds, countries, and religions. They do this through fundraisers, online workshops, mental health services, interfaith food pantries, and many more.  

It uplifts me every day to know that I can count on my Catholic and interfaith communities to give families the best service possible.  Whether I can give immigrant families direct assistance, or only referrals to fulfill their needs, my conversations with them have shown me that for all of us, being treated with dignity, respect, and human connection are as necessary as food, rent, or utilities. And that’s the least I can do for them. 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.