We have more work to do: Immigration and Compassion
Dear STH Community,
I write today with relief that the United States has halted the practice of separating immigrant families, even as we await plans to reunify the families separated in recent weeks. Our collective human witness has born good fruit, yet our work has only begun. The trauma already suffered by separated children and parents will leave indelible scars, as research in psychology and medicine tells us. Thus, I write with hope that we, people of faith, will remain attentive to the urgent need to reunite families and treat them with the greatest of respect from this day forward. This is a bipartisan concern for the humanization of our society.
The U.S. zero-tolerance policies toward immigrants continues in place, and that too is inhumane, treating all immigrants as criminals and imprisoning people indefinitely without full protection of their human rights. Similar patterns are emerging in other nations. We as a global people cannot continue to define groups of human beings in such discriminatory and cruel ways. We as Christians and religious people cannot lose sight of our calling to protect the dignity of all peoples with compassion and justice. Horrors such as slavery, the Holocaust, global genocides, and the internment of Japanese people during World War II result when we allow ourselves to lose our concern for all humanity
What can we, and should we, do? I offer three critical watchwords:
Turn to Faith: Now is the time to turn to the heart of faith for guidance. The scriptures of Christianity, Judaism, and many other faiths uncover a range of threats to children, and they speak to the value of child caring. Consider the protection of baby boys by Shiphrah and Puah (Exodus 1:13-22) or the escape of Jesus’s family into Egypt in the face of Herod’s threat to Hebrew babies (Matthew 2:13-18). We cannot, in good faith, separate children from their families or hold whole families in inhumane conditions. Ecumenical church leaders have issued statements, as have interfaith leaders in the Clergy Letter Project.[i] Six hundred clergy and laity in the United Methodist Church have also issued a statement calling for faithfulness to Christian and United Methodist values.[ii] These are people crying out from the heart of their faith.
Protest: The letters and actions on behalf of children and immigrants are power-packed protests that resist governmental and social forces of discrimination and dehumanization. More profoundly, they resist the spread of hatred that threatens national and global psyches. Mark Miller expresses this eloquently: “We resist. We refuse to let hatred in.”[iii] His anthem inspires people to protest: to resist hatred and to create compassionate cultures and policies.
Act for Compassion and Justice: Action has yielded results, at least partial results, and our hope for the future lies in continued efforts by people of faith to resist discrimination, inhumane actions, and the denial of God’s image in every human being. In the beginning, God did not create certain people in God’s image, but all people (Genesis 1:26-27). Our privilege now is to honor God’s image in all people and to treat all with dignity. Anything less falls short of our God-given vocation.
May the God of Compassion guide and deepen our continuing work, and may it bear fruit.
Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean and Professor of Theology and Education
[iii] “We Resist,” words & music by Mark A. Miller, used by permission.