We are facing an escalating humanitarian crisis with the increase of migrant children crossing the United States/Mexico border at an alarming rate. Doubling every year since 2011, more than 47,000 children have already attempted the journey so far in 2014. The face of the child migrant has inundated the news cycle, with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services unable to handle the number of children who, by law, are required to be processed to determine the safest option for each child. This often means waiting in the U.S. with a family member or foster parent for an immigration court case.
It is because of dire circumstances that a child chooses to migrate thousands of miles. A report from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees shows that many of these children are fleeing violence, conscription into gangs, and threats to their personal safety, including gender- and sexual- based violence.
As people of faith, we have an ethical obligation to care for the most vulnerable among us. The majority of unaccompanied children are arriving from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, all of which have seen changing migration patterns due to extreme poverty, violence and rising homicide rates. Displacement rates from these countries into neighboring Belize, Mexico and Nicaragua have soared by 435 percent, according to a recent United Nations report. Likewise, deportation numbers of Guatemalans from Arizona have risen 24 percent in 2014.
Common misconceptions are that policies like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or lax border security have caused increased Central American migration. However, the Department of Homeland Security has a record 21,000 border patrol agents. Prosecutions of “illegal entries” have risen 130 percent since 2007, and the Obama Administration is spending $18 billion per year on border security measures. We know that these children are not motivated by U.S. policies – they and their parents are making life-or-death decisions based on increased violence and few options for safety.
Many UCC Congregations across the country are wondering how they can help in this time of crisis. The U.S. government is required to take care of these children until the Department of Health and Human Services determines the best space for them, so there is no need for food or supply donations as in many emergency situations. Instead, we have mapped out several action steps for both advocacy and service opportunities.
Ways to Engage:
- Take action - call your representative today and call for adequate funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
- If you live near an immigrant holding facility, you may want to start a detention visitation ministry. See List of detention centers throughout the country here and research if they are holding unaccompanied children.
- Consider becoming a foster parent to allow the release of the child while they wait for their immigrant court date. Additional resources can be found via the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops.
- Spread the right message! Help educate others through resource list and social media opportunities.
- Volunteer with a program that is helping unaccompanied children, such as the Corporation for National and Community Service, Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services, or Kids In Need of Defense.
Region-specific volunteer opportunities:
- ARIZONA: Casa Mariposa seeks volunteers to help women and children dropped off at the Tucson and Phoenix bus stations. Volunteers help contact relatives, provide diapers, food, child care, etc.
- FLORIDA: Catholic Charities’ Msgr. Bryan Walsh Children’s Village in Miami, Florida shelters unaccompanied children and provides K-12 education, counseling, medical and legal services. Volunteers are need Monday-Friday to help with recreational activities and field trips as well as host birthday parties and holiday celebrations.
- TEXAS: Bilingual volunteers are needed to mentor unaccompanied children at St. Michael’s Home for Children in the Galveston-Houston area.
- NEW YORK: Spend time with minors waiting to meet with their case managers at local detention facilities.
- NEW ENGLAND: Lutheran Social Services provides legal assistance to unaccompanied minors in immigration court proceedings.
No generation in history has put so much thought, energy and money into keeping itself safe and secure, but still we are not at peace.Read more
Click on PLAYLIST in the window above to select a single story.
Where I'm Supposed to Be
The moment she joined the church, Sue knew she was home. The woman who admitted that she ‘used to be lazy about church’ celebrates finding a family with the UCC.
Tapping into a Source of Life
Phil left the church after his father's death, but when he accidentally found the UCC 20 years later, he tapped into a new dimension of life that he says he was missing.
More Fun than Chuck-E-Cheese
Jamie describes the United Church of Christ as a safe place to land, not the church of your childhood. In fact, his six-year-old daughter finds the church school experience more fun than one of her favorite restaurants.
Just Show Up
A skeptic of organized religion, Chris found the UCC after searching for a church home in several denominations. Hear why he sees this church as the most consistent, accepting faith community – one that honors the individuality of each member.
Exactly What I Need
A young woman shares the incredibly healing power of her church, and says the UCC has been the foundation for finding herself again.
I Never Expected That
Peggy Jo had faith, but her husband didn't – until God spoke to the unchurched man and brought him into the UCC community, to the astonishment and delight of his wife. Hear how knowing God enriches the life of the whole family.
A Liberation Church
Hear more from the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo—"When we think we are changing lives, the lives that change are ours."
I Continue to be Changed
Hear why UCC executive the Rev. James Moos, who developed his global consciousness at a very young age because of the United Church of Christ, would be a very different person if not for this church.
You're Welcome Too
Accept our offer of radical inclusivity. We insist.
I Have a Place
Loey P. continues to celebrate her spiritual home. She was despondent about finding a career in pastoral ministry, until the UCC nurtured the leader she knew she could be.
I Don't Have to Change to Be Accepted by Christ
As an indigenous person of North America, Toni B. was searching for a justice-seeking church when she accepted the UCC church into her life.
Shockingly Accepting of People of All Varieties
Teenager Jake M. feels a special connection with the United Church of Christ, a church he says changes and adapts and grows with him.
Walking in My Purpose
Naomi L. believes that God is still trying to be in conversation with us and that the UCC has inspired her to figure out what God is calling her to do and how to do it.
Feeling Whole Again
Sean F. reflects on the many ways the United Church of Christ offers hope and a radical welcome through the tale of a friend who rediscovered a relationship with "church" through the UCC.
All of Who I Am
Sonja says church is what happens after service on Sunday. She loves the UCC because it nurtures her, and helps her grow.
My Authentic Self
Lindsay doesn’t pretend to be something she’s not in the UCC. Hear why she says no facades are in necessary our churches, which reflect the times in an ever-changing world.
A Liberating Journey
Suzanne S. heard a message from God in a song. She didn't grow up in church, and was searching -- until she found the UCC.
I Would be Rudderless
UCC member James B. talks about the extravagant welcome he felt when he first found the UCC, and about the profound effect the UCC has had on his life. He also talks about the unique gifts the UCC adds to the religious landscape.
When Jimmy G. found his UCC church in Raleigh, N.C., he not only found a congregation, he became part of a partnership of friends that takes the pain away.
Room For Us
Sarah D. shares her love of her local UCC church, and how being a UCC member has shaped her journey.
So Not Jesus
A UCC pastor shares his own personal experience with extravagant welcome.
It Didn’t Seem Real
After Brice T. was ostracized by his church for being gay, he lost his religion. But after 15 years of believing he wouldn't get to heaven, Brice met a UCC pastor, took a chance on going back to church one Easter morning, and experienced an overwhelming message of love and inclusivity.
Bruce C. was a homeless man on the streets of Philadelphia, but God led him to the warm embrace of a local UCC congregation. Hear his story of how they offered him unconditional love.
Where I Belonged
Three LGBTQ young adults with very different faith journeys share the profound ways the United Church of Christ has welcomed them.
I Feel Love
Diane J. talks about the meaningful way she found her Christian faith through the United Church of Christ.
Sexuality and Our Faith is the faith based Our Whole Lives curriculum resources developed for each age group. These companion resources are designed to be integrated into each corresponding workshop of the Our Whole Lives Curriculum when used in United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association or other faith based settings.
Sexuality and Our Faith will put the exploration of identity, relationships, and sexuality in the context of worship and our relationship with God and scripture. The goals are to connect faith with identity, relationships, and sexuality issues in ways that lead to informed and reasoned decisions and to empower persons to act responsibly as they seek to unite body and spirit, spirituality and sexuality alienation and wholeness.
As Christians, we profess that we are created in the image of God. In this image, we make a lifelong journey toward deeper faith, faithfulness, and wholeness. As a church, we seek continually to integrate God's ongoing revelation with new knowledge and understandings of our lives and times. In our religious education, we seek to equip the faithful for this journey in all its possibilities.
As people in the United Church of Christ (UCC), we affirm that sexuality and a spirituality are intricately connected and that both are gifts from God. The actions of our General Synods, conferences, associations, congregations, and councils support this.
The following principles from the UCC's Created in God's Image: A Human Sexuality Program for Ministry and Mission, supplement the Our Whole Lives assumptions, goals, and principles, expressing what many in the United Church of Christ believe about faith, spirituality, sexuality, and justice.
Principles Guiding the United Church of Christ Commitment to Sexuality Education
1. Sexuality is a God-given gift.
2. The purposes of sexuality are to enhance human wholeness and fulfillment, to express love, commitment, delight, and pleasure, to bring new life into the world, and to give glory to God.
3. When making decisions about sexuality, the primary guide is God's call to love and justice as revealed in both Testaments.
4. From a biblical perspective, sexuality is intended to express mutuality, love, and justice. In judging whether behavior is ethical or unethical, the norms of mutuality, love, and justice are the central criteria.
5. From a biblical perspective, sexuality is distorted by unethical behaviors, attitudes, and systems that foster violence, exploitation, infidelity, assertion of power, and the treatment of persons as objects.
6. In developing a just sexual morality, we need to avoid double standards.
7. A responsible and mature sexual ethic respects the moral agency of every person. When faced with ethical decisions, each of us needs to be accorded the freedom and responsibility to choose.
8. The church, at all levels, ought to be a context for discussion about human sexuality.
9. The church ought to encourage and support advocacy with those who are sexually oppressed or the victims of sexual violence and abuse. The church can and must have a role in defining and implementing public policy.
I wish more couples would choose this verse from Song of Songs for their weddings rather than the more popular passage from I Corinthians (love is patient, love is kind, zzzzzzzz).Read more
No one really uses the word “maundy” anymore in their daily lives. Which is why today can seem a little murkier than some of the other holy days in Lent.Read more
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he asks them to donate money to poor Christians in Jerusalem. He writes, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘the one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little’” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).
Paul instructs the Corinthians on the importance of a “fair balance,” where no one has either too much or too little. May we have ears to truly hear Paul’s message today at a time when, in the United States and around the world, there are a few, extremely wealthy people, far too many poor, and many in the middle who are struggling to avoid sliding into poverty. As Paul said, a fair balance is needed. One person’s abundance is for another person’s need. There is plenty for all if we share. The Church is called to work for a world where there is a “fair balance” between abundance for a few and the needs of many.
As UCC advocates, we understand our responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable. Our General Synod has spoken repeatedly on issues of economic justice, reaffirming time and again our commitment to raising and keeping people out of poverty.
Inequality -- It doesn't have to be this way
Growing inequality is not the inevitable consequence of globalization, technological change, an aging population, or anything else. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle is disappearing as a direct result of policy decisions made by policymakers in Washington, DC, and state legislatures. Read more in this Thanksgiving-themed commentary.
Learn about Economic Inequality
A Fair Balance: Reducing Inequality in the U.S. and around the World
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and those in the middle struggle to stay there. Rising inequality is bad for all of us. A Fair Balance: Reducing Inequality in the U.S. and around the World, a new resource from JWM, explains what is happening, describes how inequality harms all of us, and outlines how to reverse this trend. A study guide facilitates group discussion and reflection.
Two short videos give excellent overviews of wealth inequality in the U.S. and globally.
Wealth Inequality in America (6 minutes, 24 seconds)
Global Wealth Inequality - What you never knew you never knew (3 minutes, 51 seconds)
Child Poverty and Inequality Resources on inequality and children from JWM.
How Inequality Hollows Out the Soul by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. "One of the well-known costs of inequality is that people withdraw from community life and are less likely to feel that they can trust others. This is partly a reflection of the way status anxiety makes us all more worried about how we are valued by others. Now that we can compare robust data for different countries, we can see not only what we knew intuitively — that inequality is divisive and socially corrosive — but that it also damages the individual psyche."
|Articles on Inequality
from the news media
In a recent article, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston powerfully illustrates our nation’s inequality. Using analyses of IRS data made by two highly-regarded economists, he first notes that in 2011, average income among the bottom 90% of taxpayers was up just $59 compared with 1966. He represents that 45-year rise of $59 as a line just one inch long. Johnston then uses this measure -- one inch representing $59 -- to compare the gains of the bottom 90% and higher-income groups.
The gains of the top 10% of taxpayers, whose incomes rose by 84% over the 45 years (up $116,071 to $254,864), is a line 163 feet long. (By illustration, this is longer than the width of a typical 8-lane freeway with an inside median.) The difference between 163 feet and one inch is quite extreme but it gets worse. The gain in average income among the top 1% (up $628,817 over the period) is line 884 feet long. The top 1% of the top 1%, whose 2011 income averaged $23.7 million (up by $18.4 million compared with 1966) would require a line nearly five miles long. All these amounts are before-tax dollars, adjusted for inflation. Over the 45 years, the average amount of tax paid by the highest-income households has also declined.
The American Dream of moving up the economic ladder through education and hard work is largely a myth. And those who are at the top reap huge rewards, not primarily due to their talent, but to the ways in which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else. We need political reform and greater equality in opportunities for education for all. More.
Inequality is bad for our national economy. In addition to moral and ethical concerns about inequality, experts now think it is also bad for the economy. Evidence is building that inequality slows economic growth and causes less stable economic expansions, that is, we can expect slower growth of the economic pie and more recessions and economic crises like the one we are still trying to recover from. Experts even suggest that narrowing the inequality gap may be more economically beneficial than other factors – like boosting trade and foreign investment – that feature prominently on the political agenda. More.
Charts Illustrating the Growth in Inequality
Growing Inequality in Income, Wealth, and Life Expectancy [pdf 552 KB], charts compiled by Edith Rasell, JWM's Minister for Economic
A Prayer for Economic Justice
Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.
Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.