“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” — Leviticus 19:33-34
It Won’t Be Easy – And It is the Right Thing to Do
-Submitted by Susie George of the Immigration Team, November 2016
The election is over. We breathe. We pay attention. We act. We were born for times just as these.
At the MN Conference Annual Meeting this past June, a resolution declaring that we are an Immigrant Welcoming Conference passed. It urges our congregations to become active immigrant welcoming congregations. It is a great and powerful statement. Who knew our opportunity for action would come so soon and be such a clarion call.
It appears that one of the first big moves by President-Elect Trump will be to immediately deport 3 million undocumented immigrants. As someone who has been working for “Humane Immigration Reform” for years and years, that is a terrifying thought. I cannot even begin to know how it must be for people and families who are the target of deportation.
As a “safety-pin wearing” woman of faith I know that action is needed. I have heard from several people who are literally afraid of what is to come. They are seeking refuge and safety. They need sanctuary! They are asking for churches to become sanctuary churches. I know this is a huge request. It is not easy. I also believe we are called to offer such safety and hospitality.
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. ~~Matthew 7:13-14 The Message
In October, I traveled to the U.S.A / Mexican Border with several other UCC-ers. As part of that trip we had the opportunity to visit Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson where we met with Reverend John Fife, one of the people who started the Sanctuary movement in the 1980s. His story was powerful.
Being a congregation so close to the Border he was frequently asked and often thought about “what does it mean to be church?” Through prayers and discussion his congregation agreed that it was time for them to become a Sanctuary for the migrants coming across the border. At one point they had between 75 and 150 people sleeping in their church. It wasn’t easy. AND it was the right thing to do.
Today, I believe, we – even here in MN so far from the Mexican border – are in just such a time. Robbinsdale UCC has already voted as a congregation to be a Sanctuary church. Mayflower UCC has voted to become a Sanctuary Supporting congregation. There will be a need for many, many more! These days we are even hearing about creating sanctuary schools and universities.
It is true that there are still nine weeks (only 9 weeks!) before Inauguration Day. That is not much time. We must act! As a nation of immigrants and a Body of Faith, we will collectively make the declaration that not one of God’s precious creations (let alone the least of these) shall be hunted and harmed on our watch.
Please understand that becoming a Sanctuary Church is not the only thing to do. There are many ways to stand with our siblings through these times. As your Conference Immigration Team, we are available to be of assistance to you. Please call on us to walk with you as you discern what your next right step might be. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 952-237-6264.
Whatever you decide: It might not be easy. AND it will be the right thing to do. May it be so.
Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation
If your congregation is interested in becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation there are resources available
Information on Our Immigration Team
If you are looking for information about our Immigration Team you can find it here.
Why Immigration Reform is Essential
Excerpted from the national United Church of Christ:
“In a world becoming increasingly globalized, more people are leaving their homelands to seek better lives and opportunities in new countries. Their reasons for leaving are diverse and complex: economic necessity, war, or persecution. The U.S. has long been a nation of immigrants and we have consistently been conflicted about this. We gratefully welcome immigrants and their contributions, and we exclude them, discriminate against them and, at times, inflict grave harm upon them.
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. The Bible is unambiguous in calling us to welcome aliens and strangers in our land, and to love them as we love ourselves. In these times, let us listen to the voice of the still-speaking God. We will learn how to respond to these new sisters and brothers residing among us.”
The Minnesota Conference UCC was a strong opponent of the 2012 Voter ID amendment, which would have disproportionately affected immigrants and low-income people. We celebrate the defeat of the unfair amendment.
Success Story: UCC in Minnesota Protects Voters as it Helps Defeat the Voter ID Amendment
In April 2012, the Minnesota legislature voted to put a voter ID amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. If it passed, the amendment would place unnecessary burdens to voting by eligible voters – and likely decrease voter turnout. As many as 200,000 voters could have been disenfranchised by the amendment.
Over 200 Minnesota religious leaders came together to create a coalition called Prophetic Voices Minnesota to defeat the voter ID amendment. We had our work cut out for us; when the campaign began, 80% of polled voters supported the amendment. At its Annual Meeting, the Conference voted to support and fully participate in the Prophetic Voices campaign, oppose the amendment, and encourage Conference congregations to do the same.
The Conference Justice and Witness Team got to work. Side by side with Mayflower Church UCC, we sent Prophetic Voices information to and called all Conference congregations, recruited phone callers and doorknockers, promoted Prophetic Voices in Conference newsletters, convened two forums at Mayflower to educate and train UCC congregations, provided speakers to churches, provided access to sermons and worship materials, made lawn signs available to congregations and individuals, and prepared materials for letters to the editor.
Our hard work paid off. In November, Minnesota voted no on the voter ID amendment. The Prophetic Voices campaign had worked with secular organizations to move the percentage of polled voters from 80% affirmative when the campaign began to less than 50% on Election Day.
Prophetic Voices reached more than 2.4 million people and its efforts were key to defeating the amendment. A more just and inclusive democracy starts with everyone being able to fully participate. The Conference joined this movement with the courage of our convictions and our belief that every voice should be heard. And now every voice will be heard.
“This victory belongs to you and thousands more like you who talked to a voter, who put up a sign, who told the truth about this amendment. You made something great happen. And Minnesota will never forget.” — Dan McGrath, TakeAction Minnesota
“Our faith called us to build a state where values of love and inclusion drove our politics rather than fear and suspicion. And we joined a long line of prophetic voices, putting our trust in God, and we took action. And these choices led to a moment of liberation, life, and hope.” — Doran Schrantz, ISAIAH Executive Director and Prophetic Voices leader
“There is no doubt that people of faith, and leaders from all faith traditions, played a pivotal role… Without that support, I don’t know if we would have succeeded.” — Eric Fought, Communications Director for Our Vote Our Future