“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Luke 18:16
Summer is a time when we have special activities for children. We host Vacation Bible School, and invite kids to bring their friends. We have world-class camping programs that teach our children about God’s love for them and all creation, while having a lot of fun and learning outdoor skills. Our camps, Christikon and Flathead, are responsible for the ongoing faith formation for generations of people.
But not all children are so fortunate. Refugee children fleeing violence in Central America are not so fortunate. Separated from their parents in some cases, warehoused in inhumane conditions in many cases, these children are not so fortunate. If animals were kept in similar circumstances, those responsible would be prosecuted. I cannot help but recall Dachau, the German concentration camp. At Dachau, there was a small zoo for the entertainment of the children of the Nazi officers who ran the camp. They were rigorous in their care for the zoo animals—in stark contrast to the prisoners who lived in filthy quarters and were half-starved.
What are we, as Christians, to do about the detention of refugee children at the border, and the inhumane conditions to which they are being subjected? A number of Montana Synod folks have asked this very question. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a statement, along with a number of other faith leaders. It was in the last News from the Montana Synod, and is available at www.elca.org. In this week’s News, please find a note from Vice President Dick Deschamps with a link to more ELCA resources. And Lutheran Immigration and Refugee services (www.lirs.org) has resources on how to help children in detention.
Here are some stories from the border:
From the Grand Canyon Synod:
“We have an ecumenical partnership with Cruzando Fronteras in Nogales, MX. It is encouraging that many of our Southern Arizona congregations have collected donations of dollars and in kind and taken them as they visit. Many bring the stories back to their congregations and have found ways to be engage in Tucson area.
The biggest area of involvement is in Phoenix. The city has processed about 1500 people a week. ICW was dropping women, children and men off at bus stops, and then LSS-SW, IRC and Catholic Charities leaders collaborated. We have about 15 Lutheran churches and a DoC church who have opened their doors for welcome and reception. ICE transports groups to the churches. The churches offer a welcome and orientation, provide phones so connections and travel arrangements can be made to the sponsors and then food, clothing, medical help and transportation to the bus station or airport is provided. While 15 churches have provided space, many more have provided financial and in-kind donations.”
Bishop Deborah Hutterer
From the Southwestern Texas Synod:
“In our Synod, we’ve got a task force, with a retreat scheduled on the border in Eagle Pass, July 26-27, made up of ecumenical partners, the task force, latino leaders, synod council and deans, and other leaders passionate about this. Our hope is to provide concrete plans for advocacy, training and direct service, but we’ll need partners to help fund our ongoing work. Part of the challenge is that the landscape/hotspots keep changing on an almost daily basis, based on who is crossing where from where and for what reasons.
Eagle Pass is also where we have a brand new SAWC out of our existing congregation, called Eagle Pass La Frontera Ministries, which provides temporary shelter and spiritual care for processed asylum seekers as they head out from Eagle Pass all over the country. That’s a ministry of opportunity because of who’s coming across the border right now, and we’re partnering with the Methodists to make it happen.”
Bishop Sue Briner
From the Executive Director of the Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest:
“Thought for the day: I cannot worship on Sunday and leave the justice work to others on Monday. While in the Rio Grande Valley I visited the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen and saw the crowd of immigrant families being served by faithful volunteers. A family member was able to enter the local detention center on a maintenance contract and related how the “stench” was overwhelming and horrific. He was told “not to look at them!” If you think the media is exaggerating the conditions at these “concentrations camps,” you are mistaken. It is very real and dehumanizing. Yes, worship on Sunday, but than on Monday, look for Jose, Maria y Jesus in the concentration camps of your community!”
The Rev. Dr. Javier Alanis
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Jesus
Jessica Crist, Bishop
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Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA