We are so grateful for the work of organizations like World Relief who are leading with values and love standing by and for and with refugees and displaced peoples during these tumultuous times.
Last month, our country commemorated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. While it’s easy to remember his legacy and believe that we would have been right alongside him in his fight for justice and equality, Matthew 23 reminds us that even we can “build tombs for the prophet” but then be a part of a community that ends up castigating, marginalizing and even eventually murdering the prophets, ignoring their message and being more comfortable with the status quo.
Martin Luther King Jr. called our nation to a higher consciousness on race, poverty, and violence. But he also wrote powerfully in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that helping the person beat up along the side of the road should only be an initial act. If we see more people facing similar circumstances of injustice and suffering, at a certain point, we must ask, what is wrong with this road? Being the Good Samaritan doesn’t just mean meeting the immediate, tangible needs of our neighbors but addressing systemic and structural issues that often inhibit the full flourishing of our neighbors.
This past year has been a particularly difficult year for immigrant communities whose vulnerability is real and whose fear has increased significantly over the past year. The termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) coincided with several other policy decisions that have left thousands of individuals without the very structural protections and systems that would allow them to thrive. This includes the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Sudanese, many of whom are in the United States having fled natural disasters. In addition, the United States is on track to resettle just 20,000 refugees this fiscal year which would be the lowest level of refugee arrivals in the United States since the refugee resettlement program started in 1980. As a case in point, only 44 Syrian refugees have been welcomed to the United States in 2018 at a time when the conflict in Syria rages on.
It’s easy to shrink back and have the narrative of fear lead to paralysis where our voices are silent and our actions are few. But Proverbs 31:8 reminds us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves for the rights of all who are destitute.” Our voice in the public square is a critical part of our witness and discipleship as followers of Jesus. Calling on our elected officials to care for the vulnerable as they make important decisions is a way for us to steward not just our resources and our time, but our influence, to stand with the vulnerable. Seeking justice for the vulnerable is ultimately a reflection of what Jesus Christ did for us as our “advocate” or “parakletos” before God (1 John 2:1). Jesus took the sins of humanity upon Himself and is interceding on our behalf before God, and we are called as Christ’s ambassadors to do the same (2 Corinthians 5:20). We cannot truly love and serve our neighbors well without also addressing the systems in which we all live. Using our voice and influence to engage in political decision-making processes ensures that our elected officials create systems and laws that reflect Biblical principle of compassion and justice.
Last year, Voices of Christian Dreamers, a group of Christian Dreamers, provided a distinctively Christian advocacy platform for fellow young immigrants to share their stories, shaping public opinion and urging Congress to pass a legislative solution for Dreamers. World Relief also published a full-page ad on February 7th in the Washington Post that asked the President and Congress to work together to support immigrants in the country. In just a few weeks, the letter garnered over 3,000 signatures with church leaders from every state supporting immigrants in the United States. In a press conference with Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Senator Angus King (I-ME), we urged Congress to support Dreamers immediately. With this letter, pastors and leaders across the country were empowered to speak up and lead their churches to change the negative narrative about immigrants into a positive narrative about individuals made in the image of God.
It is not new for the church to use its voice to speak up for our neighbors. It is part of our historic call and identity. But seeking justice for our neighbors can oftentimes entail harm and risk to ourselves. Even still, speaking with boldness, truth, courage and love at a time when it’s easy for us to vilify our enemies and shrink into our corners is essential to fully living out the Gospel. And here are a few things you can do:
1) Pray – A prayer guide is available as a resource to help you pray for immigrants in our country. Pull a group of your friends together to pray.
2) Be Truth Seekers – There has been a disheartening narrative around immigrants in our country today. This harmful narrative must not be the narrative of the church. When the narrative around us gets ugly and the discourse dehumanizing, we as the church must speak with grace, with truth, and with love to affirm individuals as made in the image of God. We must be truth tellers. Truth has a way of changing the narrative, of the way people think and act towards others, so that one harmful act of an individual does not get placed on the whole community as blame.
3) Call Congress – Proverbs 3:27 reminds us to “not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” asking Individuals can make calls to Congress as part of our “Power to Act” Challenge. You can input your information here, and a call will be made to your phone that will connect you to your Members of Congress. Please ask them to support a legislative solution for Dreamers.
4) Serve Your Immigrant Neighbors – World Relief has 20 U.S. offices that serve immigrants and refugees, and there are many other organizations that similarly serve immigrants in your communities. Get connected and volunteer your time and resources to welcome your newest neighbor!