At this time of year, we hear of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt for asylum following King Herod’s decision to murder the Holy Innocents. We also remember a year filled with political rhetoric directed against refugees and migrants.

At the Christmas Mass which I attended this year, the celebrant presented a poem in his homily — a poem which presents a very different message when read top to bottom, as opposed to bottom to top. Here is that poem, in both versions, first top to bottom and then bottom to top:

Refugees

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

The world can be looked at another way
Do not be so stupid to think that
A place should only belong to those who are born there
These are people just like us
It is not okay to say
Build a wall to keep them out
Instead let us
Share our countries
Share our homes
Share our food
They cannot
Go back to where they came from
We should make them
Welcome here
They are not
Cut-throats and thieves
With bombs up their sleeves
Layabouts and loungers
Chancers and scroungers
We need to see them for who they really are
Should life have dealt a different hand
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
So do not tell me
They have no need of our help

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Jim McIntosh

Director, US Franciscans Communications at US Franciscans
A former missionary to Perú and Bolivia, I am now working half-time at a parish in New Jersey and half-time as director of communications for US Franciscans.
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