General Conference 2008: Church Urges Humane Treatment of Immigrants
By Linda Bloom*
April 24, 2008 |
Amid signs proclaiming that "No human being is illegal" and "You shall love the sojourner," about 300 United Methodists gathered for an April 24 lunchtime rally in the water garden behind the
After members of the First Tongan United Methodist Church of Waimanalo, Hawaii, drew the crowd with song and dance, church leaders representing a range of racial and ethnic communities advocated for immigrant, civil and human rights.
The rally was organized by the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration and led by Bishop Minerva Carcaño of
The task force itself developed two proposed resolutions – one on global migration and another on immigration in the
Rally participants were encouraged to take immediate action on immigration reform by turning on their cell phones and calling their Congressional representatives and their local churches to oppose H.R. 4088, the SAVE Act, a bill focused on strict enforcement of immigration laws.
Bishop John Innis of
A call to hospitality
"As United Methodists, we've always been concerned about the subject of immigration," said Bishop Timothy Whitaker of
The basis of that letter can be found in the Bible, and the ethical implication "is the call that we have from God to practice hospitality to all people," he added.
Kyung Za Yim, president of United Methodist Women and a Korean-American laywoman, pointed out that "I, too, am American, even though my face is the face of a stranger."
"All will benefit from stamping out anti-immigrant rhetoric and racist policies," she declared. United Methodist Women, which had a number of participants at the rally, has made immigrant rights a priority of its mission work.
The Rev. Mark Nakagawa, a
How a person immigrates to the
"The people who come from other places are looking for hope," added the Rev. David Martinez, another
A sense of powerlessness
The Rev. Kelvin Sauls is a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship but also a South African immigrant, part of a larger African immigrant community "rendered voiceless and, therefore, powerless."
"We have witnessed the denial of civil and human rights among all these immigrant communities," he said.
Monalisa Taitahi, a Tongan native and United Methodist from
Immigration law needs to be reformed to consider the human face of migration, said Erin Hawkins, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race. "To criminalize our brothers and sisters from coming into the
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service writer based in