The Common Good

VOICES: The justice equation: Faith, hope and action

Jim Wallis made that comparison to apartheid during an impassioned appeal at the Church of the Ascension in Montgomery, Ala., to repeal HB 56.

We have a moral obligation to challenge unjust laws. How long this injustice stands will depend upon the actions of you sitting in the audience and others who believe we are called to be a refuge, provide sanctuary, shield and surround those who need protection, as we challenge our government to make right what is wrong.

Wallis pointed out the irony of politicians and media commentators -- notably, Fox News -- claiming to be defenders of the religious foundation of Christmas, its sacred symbols and the nation's religious heritage, while vigorously supporting Alabama's immigration law -- what Wallis termed a “miscarriage of Christmas.”

Wallis chose scripture to augment his case against HB 56 and its supporters, citing Matthew 25:35: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Wallis encouraged his audience to reach out to immigrants. He directed the audience to look around and see the face of God in each of us. He reminded us of Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from the Birmingham city jail to clergy, urging their involvement when the hearts of those in power were unyielding.

Wallis then shared a prayer that an elderly sister in his Washington, D.C., ministry offers each Saturday before serving hot meals to those in need: "Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning clothed in my right mind. I thank you that my bed last night was not my cooling board. And, Lord, help us to welcome you when you walk through this line today." This prayer lifts up the notion that "when you do it to the least of these, you do it to me."

Jim Wallis reminded us that people have taken risks throughout history for freedom and justice, and he proposed that we offer refuge and sanctuary to immigrant families. I told myself, in that moment, that Bob Mants understood such challenges; he had lived and fought accordingly.