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State and regional councils of churches
New York, June 23, 2008 – State and regional councils of churches are implementing exciting and effective immigration ministries, and the National Council of Churches USA is featuring those ministries on its Web page.
"The church is called to minister to all our neighbors, new and old," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary. "As the issue takes on more and more importance in our country, the urgency of that calling intensifies. The National Council of Churches and state and local councils are talking together so we know what each other is doing."
Church immigration ministries are most effective when they are done ecumenically, Kinnamon said. "But we don't want to reinvent wheels that are already spinning."
Links to a dozen state and city councils of churches have been placed on the NCC Web page (www.ncccusa.org/immigration/) to keep the councils informed about local needs and the churches' response, and to stimulate creative thinking for new ministries.
The NCC Web page also includes a link to Church World Service, the NCC's sister service and relief agency, which has been engaged in immigrant support and refugee resettlement for more than six decades.
Some state councils have issued policy statements to guide agencies and congregations.
The Kentucky, Minnesota and North Carolina councils of churches have issued statements stressing the biblical and moral mandate for immigration ministries along with practical guidelines for action.
The North Carolina statement quotes Hebrew Scripture and the Gospel, and also the Qur'an: “Do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor from among your own people, and the neighbor who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer…” (An-Nisa 4:36).
The Colorado Council of Churches has developed a faith pledge on immigration.
In Iowa, where raids by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resulted in the arrest of more than 300 persons in a meat packing plant last May, the churches in the Quad City area have joined hands and voices to demand an end "to this state of terror," and comprehensive immigrations reform.
The Virginia Council of Churches established an agency called Rural Free Development (RFD) to enable children and adults of farmworker and other rural households to achieve their potential. RFD uses staff, church and community partners to establish relationships of trust with family members as a basis for providing comprehensive family and child development services.
Several councils take their witness to state capitals to urge immigration reform, or to urge passage of specific legislation. The Ecumenical Council of Arizona is promoting passage of the Federal DREAM Act, a bill introduced in Congress in 2001 to give non-U.S. citizens a temporary legal status to finish school.
"Virtually all of us are encountering opposition to our immigration ministries," Kinnamon said. "The post nine-eleven world is a scary place to many who have become suspicious about unfamiliar people. But if we have learned anything in the past eight years, it is that security cannot be achieved by closing our national doors or taking up arms. Security is a product of justice and equal treatment. Getting there involves risk, but it's the kind of risk God expects of us. It was risky for the Good Samaritan to pause on a dangerous road to help a beaten man. But Jesus made it unmistakably clear that it is those who show mercy to all our neighbors who are doing God's will."
The NCC immigration page is "a work in progress," Kinnamon said. Councils of churches will post news of additional ministries as they are implemented.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228, NCCnews@ncccusa.org
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