Do not oppress a foreigner | Guest post by Morgan StaffordPosted: June 23, 2018
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)
The separation of children and families at our nation’s border has deeply troubled many of us in recent weeks.
While the recent executive order may allow immigrating families to remain united, the detention of families and children will continue for an unspecified term. This process does not reflect the dignity with which we believe all humans should be treated.
Many faith leaders have spoken against this inhumane treatment of innocent immigrant children, including our Council of Bishops. (http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/faith-leaders-statement-on-family-separation)
Along with Holy Scripture, our Social Principles provide a clear response for us. The United Methodist Church “recognizes, embraces, and affirms all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We urge society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”
Rooted in the faith traditions of the United Methodist Church, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors has been protecting child refugees since 2015, when it began representing unaccompanied minors in Middle Tennessee. Separated from their families due to gang violence, these children are from Central and South America. For thousands of these children who now reside safely in Tennessee, returning to their home country is not an option. The violence is now so extreme that families arrived at the border despite separation warnings and the parents criminally prosecuted.
Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors is responding to the most recent crisis with both compassion and expertise by sending a staff attorney and two volunteers to the border to represent families in crisis later this summer. We are proud that Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors is on the front lines of caring for our neighbors on behalf of the United Methodist Church during these important days.
During both the Memphis (meeting in Paducah, Kentucky) and Tennessee (meeting in Brentwood) Annual Conferences, the theme for our time together was #SeeAllThePeople. We are to respond when we witness suffering.
We celebrate the many ministries across our Nashville Episcopal Area that help us #SeeAllThePeople, especially children. As you read these words, United Methodists across our area are serving children through Project Transformation Tennessee. Our camping and retreat centers minister all summer with joy and excitement. Hannah’s Hope and Miriam’s Promise work to help families with adoptions. West Kentucky United Methodist Family Services assists families in welcoming children through foster care. These ministries and more are answering God’s call to serve children and families, regardless of national origins.
During the final day of Tennessee Annual Conference, we prayed for the families and children separated at the border. The immigration task force of the Tennessee Conference is organizing to help lead our local response as United Methodists, and the Connectional Ministries Team of the Memphis Conference worked with the Rio Texas Conference to develop a list of practical ways you can reach out and make a difference. Attached, please find the list of resources. We believe in the importance of both prayer and action.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” (Matthew 19:14)
Morgan Stafford – Cross-Cultural Strategist & Ministry Intern, Nashville Episcopal Area