Commentary: Giving People Shelter is a Moral Duty

wfj-graphic.jpgIn the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots; you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues. Ps. 31:20 NRSV

Plenty of human plotting puts LGBTQIA people in danger here at home and abroad. However, they face different levels of risk in America and elsewhere. In places like Uganda or Nigeria as well as other countries, being queer carries a death sentence by law.

What would Jesus do? He created community with so-called outcasts. Perhaps we should follow his model. Instead of casting these people aside, we should be welcoming them in with open arms.

In recent years, many LGBTQIA people have sought asylum here in America. Our nation has served as a shelter for them in their time of need, but I worry about how that might change in the 115th Congress. The immigration legislation that our elected officials will consider in the coming term may transform our country from a place of solace to a hostile space.

Asylum-seekers don’t need more hostility. Churches have been laying the groundwork to support this vulnerable population. The Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Partners (CLASP) is among many organizations leading the response.

Hadwen Park Congregational Church pastor Judith Hanlon got the LGBTQIA asylum ministry movement off the ground in Worcester, Mass. in 2008. CLASP provides food, shelter, transportation and links to legal services for those seeking a work permit and asylum status.

I’ve had the privilege of working with CLASP and getting to know some of the people they support. One community member, Kachi Nwosu, described how the organization and being in America changed his life in this way, “[It’s] given me the opportunity to live a free and happy life.”

Coming out and embracing their sexuality came with a big price tag for the CLASP participants. Nwosu shared that he “packed his whole life in two suitcases… I decided I had to survive and I had to go.”

People like Kachi deserve to live in peace. As a nation, we should heed God’s call to protect them from contentious tongues and dangerous people. We, as citizens, must act as a witness and tell and push our elected officials to continue to offer shelter. After all, the United States of America is a nation of immigrants and their descendants, who live on what was once Native American land. Turning away those who may not look like us or love like us is immoral.

Jason Carson Wilson is Justice and Peace Policy Fellow.

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