The Common Good

I Was a Stranger

Sojomail - December 13, 2006


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"At least Pinochet was able to die a natural death, surrounded by his family, attended to by the best surgeons. We weren't even able to bring a drink of water to our loved ones as they were tortured and disappeared. But we know the truth: History has cast its judgment on Pinochet."

- Vibiana Diaz Caro, whose father was a Chilean union leader who disappeared under the regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who died on Sunday of a heart attack at age 91. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

I Was a Stranger

Today at Sojourners/Call to Renewal we are convening a significant gathering at an important time. Nearly 50 leaders and key policy staff from national and local churches, and faith-based and community organizations are here to discuss common ground on comprehensive and just immigration reform. Many of the leading organizations are here, and we have the opportunity to bring greater energy, and a larger, broader constituency to bear on this cause. It is a room full of people who yearn for justice, and who, despite disagreements on some issues, come together on this one.


We were reminded this morning that immigration is a core issue for Christians. The biblical story continually shows God’s concern for the migrant and the outcast. “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34). Similarly, throughout the New Testament, Christians are called to care for the outcast and the stranger. Jesus identified with these neighbors when he said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). As Christians, we support compassion and justice for immigrants and their families. Immigration is also a deeply relevant issue for all Americans. The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, one that has been continually reshaped by new groups of people bringing diverse cultures, perspectives, and resources.

Immigration issues are also poverty issues. Immigrants - both legal and undocumented - are more likely to live in families with incomes below the poverty level, and children of undocumented immigrants are especially at risk. If a path to citizenship is not provided for undocumented immigrants, our country could have a permanent underclass of guest workers - people who work, live, pay taxes, and go to school in the U.S., but cannot attain better and more secure lives for themselves and their families. That’s why immigration reform is an important plank in our Covenant for a New America. Humane and holistic reform can be pro-work and pro-family, creating opportunities to strengthen the common good of families and employers alike, and enriching the vitality of America.

This morning, a panel of senior Congressional Democratic and Republican staff, from both the House and the Senate, spoke of the challenges and opportunities for immigration reform in the new Congress. With Congress closely divided, any successful legislation will require strong, bipartisan agreement. And they noted that the faith community is respected by both sides, and therefore has an important role to play. Our voices and those of our members are needed in Congress.

Then the top policy staff from the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, World Relief, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke of the significance of the church. We have a unique role, they said, to lift up the moral and human aspects of immigration reform. We believe immigrants are children of God, entitled to dignity and respect. An increasing percentage of our congregations are immigrants, and our church social service agencies, schools, and health clinics work with them and their families on a daily basis. That moral grounding and day-to-day experience gives us the authority to speak to political leaders.

It is our hope that this day together will help us explore shared visions and common messages, increase and coordinate our engagement, and identify common policies and legislative strategies. The time for significant and comprehensive immigration reform is here.

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THIS WEEK IN GOD'S POLITICS

+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Ryan Beiler: Christian Peacemakers Forgive Iraqi Captors Now Facing Trial
Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden, and James Loney, the three Christian Peacemaker Team members held by Iraqi militants for 118 days last year, have responded to the arrest and trial of their captors much in the way anyone familiar with their organization would expect - with unconditional forgiveness and an unequivocal condemnation of violence as a means of justice.

Will Braun: Christian Soldier Returns to Front Lines Unarmed
On the phone, in between his duties at Schofield Army Barracks in Hawaii, Sergeant Logan Laituri tells me he wants to "live radically for Christ." Normally I stumble over that sort of fervor - couched, as it is, in terms I would usually consider vague and cliche - but if following Jesus means telling your captain that 9/11 didn't absolve you of the need to love your enemies, I'll keep listening. ... "I realized I had to figure out what it meant to me to be a soldier," he says. "How do I act in my particular job and still follow the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself? Ya know, how can I do that when I'm asked to basically lay waste to kinda large scale areas?"

Jim Wallis: Iraq Study Group: Another Dose of Reality
The Iraq Study Group Report agrees with many of the specific recommendations that have been lifted up in this blog, namely that there be no permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, that the U.S. seek no advantage in access to Iraqi oil, and that the U.S. should act on its major responsibility to rebuild Iraq after the damage the war has done - but that it should do so in international cooperation with other nations and agencies.

FAITH IN ACTION

Human Rights Lawyer Murdered in Honduras

From www.ajshonduras.org:

Honduran lawyer Dionisio Díaz García, known to many as the "lawyer of the poor" and known to all as one of the most decent, honest, friendly, and dedicated human beings, was murdered on the morning of Monday, December 4, for standing up for the rights of poor security guards in Honduras.

Díaz García worked with the Association for a More Just Society (AJS), a Christian nonprofit organization based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that is dedicated to promoting justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people - motivated by God's call in Micah 6:8 to "act justly and love mercy."

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+ Read more about AJS in Sojourners magazine

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