Religious Leaders Petition Congress to Support Immigrant Children

Minerva Garza Carcaño, the first Hispanic woman elected to episcopacy of United Methodist Church. Creative Commons: Paul Jeffrey

Religious leaders urged President Obama and Congress to provide funding for legal assistance to unaccompanied migrant children who are in U.S. custody after fleeing violence, murder, and extortion abroad.

The emergency funds would go toward helping children who have entered the United States without lawful immigration papers and without a parent or guardian. The money could also help meet mental health needs.

Multiple speakers, including United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano and the Rev. David Vasquez, spokesman for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, took part in a national teleconference Thursday. They then sent a petition signed by more than 3,800 people to Congress.

VIDEO: The Good News Club

In public schools across the U.S., children are threatened with fire and brimstone while attending the “Good News Club,” an afterschool program sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship. In “‘Get Them When They’re Young!’” (Sojourners, August 2014), Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, writes about her experience working with a group of interfaith mothers to challenge the Good News Club in their community.

To get an inside look at the Good News Club in action, watch this video featuring their training materials and curriculum.

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'Get Them When They're Young!'

LAST FALL, I WALKED INTO Room 154 at my son’s public elementary school in Great Falls, Va., for the inaugural meeting of a new after-school club. The club’s lead organizer, a parent at the school, eyed me as she stacked Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies snacks and asked about my son, a fifth-grader at the school: “Is Shibli here?”

“No,” I responded, quietly taking my seat. I’d come out of curiosity. Our school administrators had emailed parents a flyer advertising a free, exciting, fun-filled hour of “dynamic Bible lessons,” “creative learning activities,” and “inspiring missionary stories,” with a pledge to teach our children “respect for authority,” “moral values,” and “character qualities.” Would this club be a good experience for my fifth grader?

At 3:17 p.m., three minutes before the dismissal bell, the mother-volunteer said: “Asra, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. This is a kid’s club, and you don’t have a kid [here].” My curiosity turned to suspicion. Instead of leaving, I called the school district’s public affairs office who confirmed that the club, held on public school grounds, was in fact open to anyone, with or without a child.

The mother ran out of the room and returned with the school principal. He bee-lined to me, yelling: “Right now, you are disturbing the children.” I looked around. The children were happily munching on their Cheddar Bunnies. He moved the club to the gym. When I followed, he blocked my way.

This was my introduction to the Good News Club, a private Christian organization founded in the 1920s for children age 6 to 12, run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship.

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Double Victory: 'Winning Over the Cops Who Had to Arrest Us'

Via Love Makes A Way,

Sit-in prayer vigil for asylum seekers at MP Jamie Briggs' office, Via Love Makes A Way,

“We will not only win victory for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Four years ago I was working a corporate job for a national AFL team. It was well paid. I had great opportunities. Life was good. If you had told me that I was going to become a Christian, I would have laughed in your face. If you had gone on to say I would leave my well-paid job to spend my days running a Welcome Centre for refugees while working side jobs to make ends meet, I would have questioned your mental health. If you had added that I would be arrested with church leaders and a rabbi while continuing Martin Luther King’s work, it would have certified to me that you were crazy.

On Monday I walked into Austrailian MP Jamie Briggs' office to be arrested with seven Christian leaders and a rabbi. It sounds like the start of a joke. (My life is teaching me God has a great sense of humor.)

Why were we arrested? There are 983 children and their families currently in Australia’s detention centers.

These children are kids just like our own, with their made-up games, whispered jokes, and giggles. Their families dream of a future of safety. Our incoming Governor of South Australia, Hieu Van Le, arrived by boat in Darwin seeking refuge 36 years ago, with “nothing but a suitcase filled with invisible dreams. A dream to live in a peaceful, safe and free country and to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.” In the past, Australia has been the kind of nation that grants dreams like this – why not for the 983 future Hieu Van Le’s and their families in detention?

A world away and so many years later, how is Martin Luther King’s freedom movement related to the current plight of asylum seekers in Australia? Well, the links are stronger than you think.

Into the Playhouse

Playhouse, mubus7 /

Playhouse, mubus7 /

My sister has one of those plastic playhouses in her backyard for her two boys. When she hosted a garage sale a few years ago, children accompanying their shopping parents would see the playhouse and join in.

I remember looking over at one point and seeing five children playing together. Different ages, different sexes, different races. All strangers. All playing together.

When they looked at each other, they saw a playmate.

In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela noted that children have an innate openness that tends to get closed off as they spend more time in the world.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion,” Mandela wrote in his autobiography. “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Four Ways Children Do Faith Better Than Adults

Smiling child,  mimagephotography /

Smiling child, mimagephotography /

It’s easy for the faith of children to go unnoticed. But here are four spiritual things kids do better than adults:

They Ask Questions:

Nobody asks more — or better — questions than children. “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” and “Why?” are expressions patented by kids everywhere. They’re obnoxiously curious and want to know everything about everything.

They aren’t afraid to ask the most difficult and messy questions. Too often we mistake spiritual maturity for certainty, and lose our thirst for discovery. Kids remind us how to approach God — truthfully, stubbornly, inquisitively, and tirelessly.


A New Hymn for Foster Children and Those Who Love Them

Little girl resting on her father's shoulder. Photo via Dina Uretski/Shutterstock.

Author's Note: This hymn is written with gratitude for foster parents, social workers, and others who do seek to do their best for abused and neglected children and youth. It is written as a prayer for the many children and youth who are failed by a broken system that too often ignores their cries and rights. Parts of this hymn, especially, are written as a prayer for one small boy who was our foster son for nineteenth months and is no longer in our care, but who will always be in our hearts. Sojourners' January 2014 issue had several helpful articles on foster parenting.

Lord, Hear the Cries of Children
PASSION CHORALE D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)

Lord, hear the cries of children who struggle every day,
Caught up in failing systems that steal their hope away.
Some find they’re lost to violence, then lost in foster care.
They long for life’s abundance! Lord, hear their pleading prayer.

Nuns, Paddy Wagons, and the Dags Will Inherit The Earth

 via Love Makes A Way on Flickr

Sit-in prayer vigil for asylum seekers, at Tony Abbott's Sydney office, via Love Makes A Way on Flickr.

On Monday a nun was arrested here in Australia. That’s right, a nun. She was one of a crowd of Christian leaders who engaged in nonviolent sit-ins at the electorate offices of Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. This is the latest #LoveMakesAWay action protesting indefinite imprisonment of children in our immigration detention centers. When nuns are cranky at this bipartisan brutality, its fair to say something is gravely wrong.

It was a candid moment with the BBC. Malcolm Turnbull let slip what a lot of decent Australians are thinking, not just placard-waving radicals with witty twitter handles, but families with mortgages who ferry their kids to weekend sport. ‘I don't think any of us are entirely comfortable with any policies relating to border protection’ he said. Malcolm is a team player, so he’s never going to come right out and say it. But nuns will. Desperate people are coming to us seeking safety from persecution, and the way we treat them is wrong.

VIDEO: “ReMoved”

Every child deserves a home. Yet 400,000 children are being raised within the U.S. foster care system. Who will look out for them?

All in the Family” (Sojourners, June 2014), by Julienne Gage, tells the hopeful story of churches stepping up to care for these children of God. As part of the “127 movement,” churches across the country are mobilizing to provide homes and support for these foster children. Read this inspiring story.

To learn more about the foster care system, watch “ReMoved”—an award-winning, short film about a young girl’s journey as a ward of the state.

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