The issue of walls has long bedevilled United States President Donald Trump. It is largely a local – to Americans—issue, but it has somehow drawn the attention of much of the rest of the world, partly because it involves the ongoing problem of migration, and also because walls represent the idea of separation, of opposition, of prejudice, of pride.
Pope Francis spoke anew on walls when interviewed in the Vatican by Mexico Television last Tuesday. “I don’t know what’s happening with this new culture of defending territories by building walls,” he said. “We already knew one – that one in Berlin, which brought so much headaches and so much suffering.”
He recalled how US immigration officials used to separate children from their parents when they crossed the border into the US from Mexico. “It is cruel. It is among the greatest of cruelties. And to defend what? Territory, or the economy of a country, or who knows what?”
Many US officials see Trump’s wall as a legal and constitutional issue. After the US Congress refused to appropriate the billions of dollars he needed to build it, Trump declared a national emergency so he could divert already- appropriated military funds to build the wall. Congress passed a law overturning the declaration of emergency, but Trump immediately vetoed it.
We have no wall problem in our country. As a matter of fact, in at least two instances, we opened our country to refugees seeking safety from the turmoil in their own lands. The first was when President Quezon allowed Jews fleeing Hitler Germany’s Holocaust to stay in the country. The second was when South Vietnam fell to the North in the Vietnam War and boatloads of Vietnamese were allowed to stay in Palawan until they could move on to the West.
And we are not building walls; we are building bridges. Among the many roads and railroads, airports and seaports, schools and other government buildings that the Duterte administration is constructing under “Build, Build, Build,” are eight major bridges that will connect the various islands of the country from Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao.
Walls separate people; bridges bring them together. Pope Francis, leader of a faith which espouses love and unity, thus spoke out once again on walls in his interview this week. He added a note of warning that should not be ignored: “Those who build walls end up being prisoners of the walls they build,” he said.