Written by Gregg Brekke
Inspired by the theme "Turning Walls Into Tables," constituents of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met Feb. 10-13 at Iglesia Cristiana Casa De Oracion in San Diego for a border conference to dialogue about immigration policies and border ministry.
Seventy participants from the United States and Mexico reflected on the challenge that the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration laws represent for the church; learned about specific ministries on both sides of the border that address those issues; and visit humanitarian projects in Tijuana.
Keynote presentations were given by the Rev. Daisy L. Machado, dean of academic affairs and professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary, on the subject "To Welcome the Stranger, To Welcome Ourselves;" the Rev. Carlos J. Correa Bernier, director of Centro Romero in San Ysidro, Calif.; and Jean Smyers, associate director for immigration and refugee policy with Church World Service, who invited participants to "Love Thy Neighbor" by taking action for needed reforms.
Lifting up immigrants during spoken prayers at Sunday worship and encouraging the church to aid undocumented pastors should be priorities, says the Rev. LaMarco Cable, program associate for advocacy and education in Global Ministries of the UCC and Disciples.
"We need to help people understand ways in which our immigration policies are not only harming immigrants, but are directly harming all of us," says Cable, citing the potential erosion of public safety, education levels and public health when civil authorizes enforce immigration laws. "When police begin to enforce immigration laws, fearful immigrants fail to enroll children in school, seek needed health care, or report problems to the police."
Conference-goers heard border-issue testimony from executive church leaders, and worship was jointly sponsored by the Disciples/UCC Global Ministries, Disciples Home Missions, the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries and Disciples Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries. It was led by a team of young adults, including college students, seminarians and recently ordained ministers.
Participants called on the UCC and Disciples to be more welcoming of all migrants by learning more about the borderlands; opposing border militarization; providing humanitarian assistance to immigrants; advocating for righteous national immigration reform; building relationships through immersion experiences on both sides of the border; and reviewing assumptions and language regarding the "other" and what it means to be "American" or "Christian."
To read the full statement from the conference please visit <globalministries.org/news/lac/statement-of-the-participants>.