ELCA, Episcopal Presiding Bishops Urge Advocacy in Immigration Policy
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The presiding bishops of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church called
for members of their churches "to advocate for just national
policies on resettlement and migration." The Rev. Mark S.
Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, and the Most Rev. Katharine
Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, made
the comment in joint statement released Jan. 30 at a gathering
here with refugees, staff and friends of Interfaith Refugee and
Immigration Ministries (IRIM).
The gathering was at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement.
Jefferts Schori is here in advance of the Feb. 2 consecration of
the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. The ELCA,
based here, and the Episcopal Church, based in New York, are full
communion partner churches. The churches are affiliated with
IRIM through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service or
Episcopal Migration Ministries.
In their statement, the presiding bishops noted that there
are 33 million people worldwide who are refugees. They wrote:
"The current migration climate in this country is often focused
on exclusion and restriction. As people formed by a generous and
embracing gospel, we must challenge our leaders to avoid
cultivating an unwarranted atmosphere of fear. We must not
encourage building walls or denying basic human rights to those
who clamor for security and justice. Our perspective should be
one of abundance, for we are blessed with abundance and guided by
the mandate to love all as part of God's good creation."
Two refugees, served by IRIM, told their personal stories to
the presiding bishops. One refugee, Baraka Kubaya, came to the
United States through Egypt, after he and his wife were forced to
leave their home in Sudan. Sponsored by St. Luke's Lutheran
Church, Park Ridge, Ill., Kubaya and his wife resettled here in
2006 with IRIM's help.
"That day was like a new page in my life," he said. "For
the first time in my life, I felt secure. IRIM prepared
everything for us. They deserve good credit for the work they
are doing here."
"Most of us in this country, if we're willing to go back far
enough or even just a few years, have stories (in our histories)
of oppression, of hunger, of warfare, of not knowing what it is
to live in peace with justice," Jefferts Schori said. "We are
called to transform this world into something that looks more
like what God has in mind for all of us."
Hanson agreed, saying that every person has immigration
stories in their histories. "I'm convinced this culture would be
in a very different place if we would stop, as privileged people,
and simply hear the stories of refugees."
IRIM represents all organizations and people who are living
out their faith by heeding the Scriptures, Hanson said.
Immigration stories "drive us back to the biblical narrative," he
"It's always bewildering for me that people of faith become
so ardently anti-immigrant and anti-refugee because they are
becoming biblically illiterate about their own narrative. God
expects -- requires -- God's people to reflect that covenantal
relationship in the extension of justice to the sojourner, the
refugee among us," Hanson said.
Founded in 1982, IRIM provides support and services for
2,500 people annually who have resettled in the Chicago area. It
has served people from 64 countries, said Gregory J. Wangerin,
Information about Interfaith Refugee and Immigration
Ministries is at http://www.irim.org/ on the Web.