God Welcomes the Stranger
Donna and Jorge Aros represented the Kentucky Conference September 10-11 at the Midwest Interfaith Immigration Summit in Columbus, Ohio. The purpose of the event was to mobilize faith advocates in the Midwest to be fully prepared to give aid (spiritual, legal, physical) to immigrants, and to advocate on behalf of humanitarian immigration reform. The event was attended by 141 individuals: clergy, students, executive directors, lay congregants, policy staff, and service providers. They came from 17 states and represented 21 denominations/ religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Baptist, Evangelical, Ancestral Worship, Eastern Orthodox, Catholicism, Judaism, and Quakers. We are proud to say that United Methodists filled three large tables!
The keynote address was given by HIAS President Gideon Aronoff, who did a powerful job of laying out the purpose of the summit and stressing the importance of faith groups in the immigration debate. If we as people of faith do not step up to frame the conversation on immigration, people with other motives will—and have done so already.
The workshops the first day focused on education: the root causes of immigration, raids and detention, federal legislation, and state and local issues. The second day focused on bridging education to action and had workshops such as lobbying, how to move your congregation from education to advocacy, and how to frame and message the debate. The speakers at the summit were all experts, in different aspects of the situation: from pastors who led their people through terrifying raids, to attorneys of immigration law, to faith-based lobbyists. Bill Mefford from our UM General Board of Church and Society was a speaker and also led a workshop. Bill is currently working with the KENTUCKY FAITH COMMUNITIES IMMIGRATION COALITION, of which the KAC Justice Team is a part, on a petition drive to raise awareness among faith groups, and to give the opportunity to people of faith to express our position.
Donna Aros, Bill Mefford, and Jorge Aros