A recent Center for American Progress report, "Loving Thy Neighbor: Immigration Reform and Communities of Faith," revealed to the progressive political community what many in the faith community have known for quite some time: a social movement is emerging, led by people of faith, in support of compassionate and humane immigration reform. The speakers at the release event, including Cardinal Roger Mahoney and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), spoke about community engagement on the controversial topic of immigration reform and the faith community's unique role in the public square.
"It is not simply enough to feel badly for those who are suffering," said Jack Moline, rabbi of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia. He emphasized that people of faith who are motivated by compassion must also work for justice to provide a structure in society where immigrants can realize their full potential.
As campaign coordinator of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR), I travel all over the country and speak to local faith leaders who are deeply concerned about the status quo regarding immigrants in their communities. They are looking for scriptural guidance and practical answers about how to faithfully engage their congregations in dialogue and activism. Churches are often the place where immigrants feel safe and welcome in the U.S. and where they turn for guidance. During these trainings and discussions, stories pour out of pastors on the front lines that have seen families endure hardship and separation due to their immigration status.
The stories in the report reflect the transformation in the hearts and minds of the faithful who have become agents of change in their communities. People of faith are speaking out against the unjust laws governing our immigration system and insisting that any reform of immigration laws be born from love and compassion rather than fear and hatred.
In his opening remarks, Rep. Clyburn recalled his father's reaction when he announced he would pursue a path of public service instead of ordained ministry. His father replied, "The world would much rather see a sermon than hear one." I think that line accurately summarizes the mentality of this faith-driven movement. We practice what we preach and respond where there is suffering. People of faith are reaching out in political and prophetic ways to ensure justice and peace for all God's children, particularly the immigrant among us.
For the latest updates on our campaign, follow us on Twitter @CCIR.
Allison Johnson is the campaign coordinator of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Her commentary "Shackling the Stranger" appeared in the April issue of Sojourners.
To learn more about immigration reform, visit www.faithandimmigration.org.