Trump, the Pope & The Archbishop: On Building Walls

Trump, the Pope & The Archbishop:  On Building Walls

-Gregory A. Barker, Educational Consultant

Donald Trump caught the interest of the world with his proposal to have the Mexican government build a wall at their border with the United States in order to keep out what he believes are less desirable Mexican citizens from US soil.

It spawned jokes in Canada about building a wall to keep out their crazy southern neighbors (‘Canada for US President 2016’: ) as well as a very strong message from the Pope on inclusivity rather than wall-building as a fundamental value of Christianity, see: .  One Catholic comedian raised the issue that the Vatican is surrounded by quite a substantial wall itself: .

Walls.  We put them up when we feel threatened and insecure.  Who of us have not put up psychological barriers when we feel afraid?

Countries can do this too.  But are walls truly effective as a solution to crime, war and the loss of jobs? Alternatively, are the Pope’s aspirations for true inclusivity politically practical? These are great questions to explore with students!

It’s possible to come to different answers to these questions without being a racist – so says The Archbishop of Canterbury. He wants Britain to take in far more than 20,000 Syrian refugees; still, he has declared that, “fear is a valid emotion at a time of colossal crisis.”  Yet, it is a fact that fear can easily stoke the fires of prejudice.

The current debate about walls between nations is, essentially, a debate about human values – which explains why the Pope was so willing to jump into the fray. Many of us are attracted to the area of religious studies because we sense that, at least historically speaking, religions are about the creation of human values – some not so attractive whilst others are hugely needed.

Do our students believe that religions have a relevant perspective when it comes to proposals for building walls?  I wish I could be a fly on the wall when discussion happens in your classroom!

-Gregory A. Barker

Gregory A Barker, PhD is a popular educational presenter at Schools across the United Kingdom, hosting revision sessions and general RE days. His book, Jesus Beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts, has been published by Oxford University Press. See He can be reached at