Chicago Evangelicals Harassed While Praying for Immigration Reform
It was five days before the mid-term elections. The race to fill President Obama's senate seat was neck-and-neck. On one side, Alexi Giannoulias strongly supported comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act. Swayed heavily by perceptions of public opinion, his opponent Mark Kirk didn't want to take a stand on immigration reform and believed "it wasn't the right time for the DREAM Act."
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In an attempt to let Mark Kirk know that a growing number of evangelicals want immigration laws that reflect the overwhelming biblical call for God's children to extend love and hospitality to the foreigners in our land, a multi-ethnic group of pastors and lay leaders held a concert of prayer outside his campaign office.
We began by asking his campaign staff if we could pray for them personally and for the candidate. They responded by slamming the door in our face and saying they don't want our prayers.
As we lifted up prayers and songs of worship, familiar songs crying for God's power and mercy took on new meaning for us. Those inside the campaign office, however, found it more amusing to shine laser pointers in our eyes while we were petitioning our Lord and Savior on their behalf. They responded to our prayers by verbally assaulting us, in hopes we would say something to have on record for their blog sites.
So, you might be asking, why we would endure such treatment and plan more times of prayer for Senate-elect Kirk?
Over a year ago, a number of pastors and lay leaders in the Evangelical Covenant Church on Chicago's North Side started asking how we can respond to God's call. We partnered with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to form a family support network. Members from our congregation offer support and friendship to families facing the crisis of deportation. Through this effort, our hearts have broken for families that have been ripped apart by our unjust laws and the escalation of deportations since Barack Obama became our president. As the abstract conversations about immigration laws turned into personal stories of new friends, we could not help but respond in action.
Our hope now is not only that laws will change, but that the hearts of the evangelical church will change as well. Where we were largely silent during the civil rights era, we hope history will remember us as standing side by side with our immigrant brothers and sisters.
Max Kuecker works to engage college students in urban mission in Chicago and enjoys speaking at churches on ethnic identity, advocacy, or other justice-related topics.