From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the earth; and [God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek [God] and perhaps reach out for [God] and find [God], though [God] is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).
The movements of peoples from and to various cities, countries, and continents are more than accidents of nature. It is also more than mere responses to economic and political pressures and incentives.
Those of us who share the Judeo-Christian heritage bear testimony that God is ever present and that God has a design for a world that is culturally interactive, constantly intermingling with each other to enhance the interdependency, pluralism and redemptive diversity of the Kingdom. It is with this conviction that we read the sacred text, “Do not mistreat or oppress a stranger; you know how it feels to be a stranger, because you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9, RSV, adapted).
The writers of the sacred texts call us to be the community of God to give shelter, protection, and help to immigrants living among us, with a constant reminder that the Bible is replete with stories of immigrants. The Israelites never forgot that they too were once immigrants for forty years after the exodus from Egypt, as they sought the Promised Land. They never forgot that the ethic of welcoming the stranger is woven into the very fabric of the Israelite covenant.
Globally, there are more than 13 million refugees and another 26 million who are internally displaced. Additionally, there are millions more who seek asylum or are migrants, hopeful for a way out of poverty.
The Christian community cannot afford to be unresponsive to these realities. Whatever legislative measures are adopted by receiving countries should be sensitive and humane. What should our response be?
1. Denounce and oppose the rise of insensitive reactions against undocumented immigrants, and to support any and all efforts to build bridges;
2. Provide pastoral care and crisis intervention to those who are undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers;
3. Provide technical and financial assistance to local churches in compassionate ministry with undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers;
4. Monitor immigration policies and practices in order to ensure fair and adequate process in regard to asylum petitions, judicial review, refugee resettlement priorities, and immigrant categories;
5. Become more informed and active citizens, using their voices and votes to speak for the voiceless, to defend the poor and the vulnerable and to advance the common good.
More to the point, here in the United States, the question comes closer to the heart, to our congregations, and to our communities. Confronted with the complexity of the immigration debacle, prayerful sensitivity is a necessity. Whether we like it or not, immigrants (both permanent residents and undocumented) look to the Christian community for guidance and clarity about the future. As a community of faith, we cannot be intimidated by the magnitude and complexity of the challenge.
Like Mary in proclaiming the Magnificat, we marvel at what God has done in recent years through the US/Canada church among the immigrant population. The most percentile evangelistic gains in our membership have been among immigrant and nonwhite people groups. Maybe, the time has come when, along with the efforts on the part of government to grapple with the intricacies of illegal immigration, we offer a prophetic voice of hope and compassion to those Nazarene immigrants. We can move from being a spectator to become a prophetic compassionate player!
by Jerry D. Porter