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“Aporophobia makes us indifferent,” the Archbishop of Tangier warns

Jim Kearns

“Where there were poor people, we have been made to see organized crime, terrorists, rapists, and drug dealers.”

Aporophobia is revulsion towards those who lack resources, those in need: the poor. This, according to the linguistic midwives who pulled this neologism from the womb of the ancient Greek word “áporos” (poor). “Phobia,” although it can be used as a verb on its own, also functions as a suffix which, when added to a word, indicates fear, hatred or revulsion towards whatever the original word designates. The word “aporophobia” was first created in Spanish, and has more recently passed into use in English.

Santiago Agrelo Martínez, Archbishop of Tangier, Morocco, is one of the clearest voices speaking out in favor of greater empathy and humane treatment of immigrants and of the poor in general. Speaking to Aleteia, he said that “it’s obvious that, if a word is born, a reality preceded it; the disturbing and very sad reality which is abhorrence of the poor.”

“Abhorrence” is an appropriate word, since the verb “abhor” (according to the Oxford dictionary) implies a combination of both disgust and hatred.

Archbishop Agrelo feels that, if we name the object of abhorrence in this case, it seems impossible that it truly be poor people, those who need us, those who need everything; “but they are.”

No good person would allow in his or her heart feelings of repugnance and/or hatred towards people just because they are poor; nevertheless, we are infected by those feelings. Are we becoming inhuman? “I don’t think so,” the Archbishop says. But what is definitely true is that “someone has deceived us, and where there were poor people, we have been made to perceive a threat to our safety, a danger to our health; where there were poor people, we have been made to perceive organized crime, terrorists, rapists, drug dealers, and thieves; where there were poor people, we have been made to see illegal immigrants, people with irregular legal situations, people who live clandestinely, and violent criminals.”

“Thus, repugnance and hate towards the poor—aporophobia—found an alibi (what’s natural to us is repugnance and hate towards rats) that leaves us with tranquil, poisoned minds; we are tranquil and unconscious, tranquil and indifferent in the face of one of the greatest tragedies of humanity,” he denounces.

“I’m very much afraid that aporophobia, cultivated against emigrants, will turn against us in the form of hate and contempt towards all those who are weak, defenseless, vulnerable … Choose whatever examples you want in the area of the family, the school, society: there’s material to write a book,” wrote the Archbishop, a Franciscan from Galicia in Spain.

We need “massive doses of truth, of authenticity, of discernment, of love towards others, of love for life, of love for the earth. And this isn’t a random desire or just superficial words. If there is one life that [you think] doesn’t deserve respect, you have already given your reason for not respecting any. If there is one life that you can treat with contempt, you have already justified contempt for any other. You cannot oppress emigrants and also defend workers. You cannot kill the unborn and defend your own right to life,” concluded Archbishop Santiago Agreo Martínez.

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