Greetings beloved St. Georgians,
As I write this post, it is Wednesday, June 20, World Refugee Day. The reports of the past weeks regarding refugees seeking asylum at our southern U.S. border and the no tolerance policy of our government are disturbing to say the least. Over the past several days, we have heard more and more voices from all sides of the political spectrum calling on the government to end its practice of separating children from their parents. I realize that my message here is mostly a repetition of what others have already said more eloquently, but I feel that it is important that I add my voice and call our particular community to prayer and action. Just treatment of immigrants is one of the core themes in scripture and has been a core theme of Christian moral teaching for centuries.
Recently I heard an interview with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who summed up the Christian approach by saying that Jesus told us to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Separating children from parents at the border is not loving your neighbor. As I have been writing this, an announcement has been made that President Trump has signed an order that that would allow children and parents to remain together while being detained. I am thankful that this action has been taken. However, it is still important to pay close attention to how people are treated on our behalf as U.S. citizens.
There are many views in our St. George’s family regarding immigration and what is best for our country. As a priest, I do not claim to know the best policy in order to solve the immigration concerns we face. I do claim, as a follower of Jesus, that we have a moral obligation to treat our fellow human beings with dignity and respect. We have a spiritual obligation to practice the love of Christ. Children and vulnerable persons, especially, are to receive our compassion and kindness. When people appear on our borders, because they fear for their lives at home, we can do a better job of treating them like human beings. It seems that the no tolerance practices of our government are intended to deter people from showing up in the first place.
The attorney general quoted Romans 13 last week as justification for the no tolerance policies of our government. If they want to use scripture as a justification for policy, I have an additional suggestion. Rather than quote a passage of scripture which was also used to justify the legal practice of slavery in this country, asking us to blindly accept the authority of the government, I would invite our authorities to look at the broader scope of scripture. Although there are times when God seems to have “no tolerance,” the greater witness is that God is extremely tolerant and flexible. God lays down the law, but then God also provides loopholes and exceptions.
In addition to Presiding Bishop Curry, our own diocesan bishops have spoken out on these issues. They are calling us to speak to our governing representatives and authorities. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has more information about reaching out to congressional representatives. You can find information here. The issues are greater than the separation of children and families. Will there continue to be access for persons seeking asylum and refuge? While these are complicated issues, I call us to pray for compassionate ways forward and to stay engaged. The treatment of immigrants and migratory persons is one of the core themes in scripture. Over and over, God sides with the people who are crossing the borders.
Your rector and brother in Christ,
Marsha Wilkins says
Part of the problem is that the news outlet is not calling the recent influx of people from Central America refugees. Most people think they are just trying to emigrate here for other reasons. Several years ago I taught a 5th grade student from El salvador. He crossed over illegally with his mother during the last part of 4th grade. By Christmas of his 5th grade year, his father was murdered. These people are in real danger.