EPPN LENTEN SERIES: For the Human Family
“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” -Matthew 10:7
For the Human Family, The Book of Common Prayer
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Last month, I traveled to Ellis Island with the staff of Episcopal Migration Ministries. We decided to take this trip together to explore and honor one living example of our nation’s immigration history. Standing in the building that processed 12 million immigrants from 1892-1954, I was struck by two primary themes I noticed in the exhibits.
The first theme is that the people who came through Ellis Island viewed the United States as a place for opportunity, but for many, it was simply a place to feed their families in safety and dignity. I was struck by the numerous stories of people with sheer determination to achieve a sense of normalcy. I see that determination alive today, as people continue to view our country as a place to raise a family with dignity. This land is a place where families can succeed.
The second theme I noticed was the undeniable positive influence immigrants have had on our country, from building roads, train tracks, and iPhones, to developing political and social systems that we depend on for common life. Yet while these contributions are significant and we are right to laud our nation as one of immigrants, we cannot ignore the constant existence of anti-immigrant sentiment. Ellis Island had an exhibit that showcased the shameful efforts that most usually invoked racism and fear to slander new Americans and enact anti-immigrant policies. The efforts were rooted in fear and demonization of the other.
As people of faith, we must recognize the unholy contradiction between the reality of families and individuals contributing to their new country while facing exclusion and discrimination. We move closer to the Kingdom of God when basic dignity is afforded to every human being. In doing so, we honor God’s commandments and bring ourselves closer to a Christ-centered life that is about mercy, hope, and compassion. And that can only happen when we work as one to find solutions to the grave problems that face us.
In that spirit, I long for immigration policies that honor the dignity of human life and respect the value of every family rather than policies that singularly criminalize and detain migrants and can sow fear. That approach does not create long-term, just, and economically beneficial solutions for our communities. Thus, I will continue calling for bipartisan, comprehensive reform that will provide pathways to citizenship, bring families together, and offer economic and social opportunities for all.
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