In Arizona it is clear that the immigration issue is more than just a political debate; human lives hang in the balance. Families we have come to love are finding themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances. For us the question to the church seems clear: "Who will speak for those denied a voice?" Locally the rhetoric has become intolerable as families - families in our churches, ministries, and neighborhoods - are described in angry, hateful, even subhuman terms. As Christians, regardless of our position on the issue, we will not accept this type of language and we must call our political leaders to a higher standard whether during national presidential contests or inside of committee hearings in our state houses. That's why we're speaking out, as these Arizona pastors recently did:
As ministry leaders and pastors of churches in this county, we do not ask people of faith to prove their legal status before they can participate in fellowship.
In the process, we have watched the lives of immigrants become increasingly intertwined into the lives of our congregations.
This has given us an up-close and personal look at the human toll borne by the men, women and children caught in the crosshairs of politicians who use a broken immigration system as an opportunity to build personal political capital.
Instead of solutions, we are offered slogans from soapboxes. Worse still, we are offered poor uses of our state and county's limited resources that cannot begin to solve this clearly federal issue.
Local posturing is sure to only drive families further into the shadows - families we care deeply about.
When families in our fellowships are afraid to send their kids to school, go to the grocery store, talk to the police during an emergency or even answer a knock at the door, regardless of the nature of their immigration status, we must speak up.
The acidic level of fear created by a few opportunistic politicians is intolerable and putting all of us at greater risk.
A divided, polarized and frightened community works in complete contrast to the message of love and reconciliation we strive to communicate to our world.
I encourage you to read their entire statement. Solutions not slogans are what is needed right now and above all a call to remembrance that at the center of this issue sit human beings - human beings that are very important to us.
Ian Danley is a youth pastor with Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, Arizona.