Imagining a New American Church Response to Immigration

By Noel Castellanos 6-07-2010

This week, a group of 150 Christian leaders committed to the ministry of reconciliation in their churches, communities, schools, and organizations gathered at Duke Divinity School to explore how the church can be more present and engaged in the struggle of racial brokenness that exists in the world. Convened by the directors of the Duke Center for Reconciliation, Chris Rice, who walked and worked in the struggle with John Perkins's son, Spencer Perkins, in Mississippi for years, and Father Emmanuel M. Katongola, a Roman Catholic priest from Uganda, who is also on the faculty of the Duke Divinity School.

As the faculty prepared for our week of teaching and learning together, it became very clear that to spend time here in the United States talking about the new journey of reconciliation we are dreaming of in the world, that we must address one of the most pressing issues of racial strife and human rights in our nation's history: immigration.

Through the leadership of CCDA and Sojourners board member Mary Nelson and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, who is a young radical, author, and leader in the new monastic movement, we worked together to create both a process of education, engagement, and enlistment with the faculty and attendees of this amazing institute.

The culmination of this process of sharing stories about our immigrant brothers and sisters suffering through deportations and gross discrimination, sharing facts and information about our current broken immigration system (facts which many had never heard before), and of spending time over meals and in small groups to talk, dialogue, and even vent about what our response as Christians should be, was the invitation to sign what we are calling the Durham Declaration on Immigration and the Church. More than 100 attendees have signed this declaration, and the rest of the men and women present have had an opportunity to at least consider this issue in a new way.

We share this document praying and hoping that it may help others searching to find a biblical response to our current immigration situation find new insight, new inspiration, or new courage to enter into the pain of millions of men, women, and children created in the image of God in a new way.

It is also my deepest prayer that love, respect, and grace would be embraced in all of our efforts to turn the hearts and minds of our fellow church members and Americans to become allies in our struggle to imagine a new immigration policy for our nation.

Durham Declaration on Immigration and the Church

Believing that God's people are shaped by memory to imagine new possibilities, we refuse conformity to this world's systems and commit ourselves to concrete practices of God's beloved community.

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