The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) is urging United Methodists to join a national campaign to eliminate the use of the word "
illegal" as part of the conversation on immigration reform.
GCORR has signed on to endorse the "Drop the I-Word" public education campaign launched by the Applied Research Center, a racial justice think tank urging media outlets and other organizations across the country to stop using the term "
illegals" and its derivatives. GCORR is looking for 10,000 United Methodists to take the pledge.
"GCORR is proud to endorse the 'Drop the I-Word' campaign because it is a tangible way to engage The United Methodist Church in moving from racism to relationships," said GCORR General Secretary Erin M. Hawkins. "Immigration has proven to be a divisive issue across the country and even within our churches. Proverbs 18:21 says that words can kill or words can give life. Who better than people of faith, to help lead a movement that believes we should communicate in ways that reflect God's love for humanity."
The campaign is designed to help communities understand and respond to the damaging and racist impact the term "
illegal" has on the immigrant community. It divides and discriminates against immigrants and people of color. The i-word is shorthand for " Illegal alien," " illegal immigrant" and other harmful and racially charged terms. Hawkins added, "We as United Methodists cannot tolerate any attempts to dehumanize or devalue immigrants or any racial ethnic community."
The GCORR "Drop the I-Word" campaign is taking the national campaign directly to United Methodists because it aligns with a commitment to racial justice outlined in the denomination's Social Principles which states, "We affirm the rights of all immigrants…to freedom from social discrimination and to advocate for justice for all." ¶162, the Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church. GCORR is seeking 10,000 names for the campaign, by Dec. 6, 2011.
"10,000 pledges would mean that 10,000 United Methodists are committed to eliminating the hate-filled rhetoric that is so prevalent in this immigration discourse," said Bishop Minerva Carcaño, chair of the United Methodist Interagency Immigration Task Force and vice president of the General Commission on Religion and Race. "Today, thousands of immigrants and their families experience the deep suffering of being strangers in a strange land. I pray that we United Methodists would stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters, signing on to this campaign."
Part of the campaign includes urging United Methodists to monitor the I-Word's use by their congregations and community media, and provides tools to change the conversation.
"Ephesians 2:19 reminds us that in Christ we are no longer strangers, but sisters and brothers in the household of God. This is a campaign that starts with the pledge on the Internet, but it quickly becomes interactive advocacy," said Victor Cyrus-Franklin, coordinator of Advocacy for GCORR. "We expect to see church members and students Tweeting about this, sharing stories about the impact the I-Word has had on them, their families and friends. It's in the conversations about the word and its impact, that we can build relationships formed out of respect for and understanding of each other. And in the end, that moves us closer to our goal – moving the United Methodist Church from racism to relationships."
On the GCORR website, www.gcorr.org, United Methodists can take the pledge to Drop the I-Word, and also find resources, including teaching tools and Bible study designed to help churches start new conversations without using the I-Word.