Today, I’d like to share an op-ed by one of these powerful champions of migrants and refugees. Rev. Steve Klemz of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, penned a compassionate op-ed that appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune. In Don’t Lose Children in Political Crossfire, Rev. Klemz calls for the United States to protect Central American children seeking refuge. He writes:
The children who have come to our border are a gift. In fact, according to my faith tradition, they are a holy gift, calling people of faith into the holy work of hospitality. In the Bible (from Mark’s Gospel) “Jesus took a child and placed the child in the midst of his disciples. ‘Whoever receives one of these children, receives me.’” I believe that Jesus is pointing us to the thousands of children, placed in the midst of us, calling us to stand for welcome.
The children are a gift. Their presence tests the moral character of these United States. Our country can grow stronger if we address this humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to confront our broken immigration system. Immigration, refugee, and asylum policies express who we are as a nation. These refugee children have made perilous and courageous journeys, leaving their home countries to seek protection from drug and sex trafficking, hunger, poverty and gangs.
The United States often urges and expects countries throughout the world to host thousands of refugees on their own lands. Now, when our nation is faced with a refugee crisis at our border, how will we respond?
Today, as a faith leader with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, we stand by American and faith-based values of welcome, freedom, safety and due process when it comes to the tens of thousands of children seeking refuge as they flee violence in Central America. We deeply oppose incarcerating children and families who have arrived at our borders seeking refuge. We oppose any changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 because children fleeing violence and seeking refuge deserve compassionate treatment and meaningful access to protection and legal relief.
As citizens in this great nation, we may not always agree on immigration and refugee policies. However, as Maria Elena Salinas, following the trail of migrant children, writes, “…here’s why the rules should be different: They are children.”
As people of faith, we may not always agree on justice or the way for God’s peace, but we should never fall silent in working to bring about justice and peace. Especially when, I believe, the children are a gift whom God has placed in our midst.
Faith leaders like Rev. Klemz are raising their voices to drown out messages of fear and rejection with words of compassion and justice. You, too, can be a bold voice for welcome. Voice your support for Rev. Klemz’s courageous message by commenting here.