Venezuelan Bishop: 'Immigrants in America pursue dream of freedom and justice'
By Edoardo Giribaldi
“Thirty-one years ago, I suffered a car accident in which I got 43% of my body burnt. My face was disfigured and needed over a year to first recover and more than 45 surgeries to get back on my feet.” Carlos Márquez, Auxiliary Bishop of Caracas, Venezuela, started his address to the students of St. Francis College, Brooklyn, by recounting his personal story of conversion.
Before the accident he “was not a believer. Not a bad person, but not a believer. God was not in my plans, I kept Him out my life,” he affirmed, remembering being rushed to the hospital feeling capable of just thinking “God, don’t let me die.” And eventually, he survived.
However, that was still not the way in which he encountered God. After his first recovery, he started assisting a catholic parish in Caracas. He got to know “people that did not have the obligation to love me, and they did. They did not have to help me and they did. I met the presence of a loving God through the people who believe in Him and wanted to live in accordance with His teachings.”
The suffering of Venezuelans
Today, Bishop Márquez's attention is focused on the suffering of his population, and their evermore pressing necessity to leave their country. “The minimum wage is equivalent to twelve dollars a month, while the cost of the average food basket for a family of five to survive costs close to 400 dollars a month. People cannot make ends meet.”
Disparity is another critical issue underlined by the Venezuelan Bishop, stating of, according to the most recent polls, 95% of the country’s income is in the hands of less than 10& of the entire population. Most Venezuelans eat only twice a day. Hospitals don´t work properly. Public education has collapsed.”
Specifically, Because of the conditions of poverty, repression and violence, more than 7.1 million Venezuelans were forced to leave the country, making it the largest migrating flow in Latin American history,” Bishop Márquez affirmed.
An opportunity for the US
However, the tragic conditions that force people to leave their countries can eventually turn out in an opportunity to find that true love which “finds its complete fulfilment in relationships. Nobody can find the plentifulness of love if one does not take the chance to relate to the other ones. And by ‘other’ I mean the one that is different from oneself,” the Venezuelan Bishop explained.
The United States represent one of the clearest examples of how people coming from different parts of the world joined forces to literally help build the country. Most of the ancestors of today´s American people were immigrants,” Bishop Márquez affirmed. “Many of them came here fleeing from oppression, political persecution, food shortage, extreme poverty or war. They found a community that received them and gave them the opportunities, as that Catholic community in Caracas did to me.”
To underline the historical value of migration, the Venezuelan Bishop provided a series of examples that are present in the Bible: from the people of Israel liberated from slavery to the Holy Family, that rushed to Egypt to avoid King Herod’s persecution.
Bishop Márquez underlined the challenges that both migrants and the countries that received them had to face throughout history. However, the benefits brought by the merging of cultures are in plain sight.”
That’s why the Venezuelan Bishop wanted to highlight the huge contribution that people from Venezuela have been capable of offering to the United States. From Rafael Reif, the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to many Major League baseball players and other Venezuelan people that work or have worked in NASA.
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