You are on page 1of 28

UNITED METHODIST COUNCIL OF BISHOP'S

STATEMENT ON UNDOCUMENTED MIGRATION: TO


LOVE THE SOJOURNER

THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

On Undocumented Migration:
To Love the Sojourner

A Statement of Concern to United Methodists in the


United States of America
from the United Methodist Council of Bishops

Love the sojourner ..for you were

sojourners ill the {and oj Egypt.

-Deuteronomy /0: /9

We the bishops of The United Methodist Church,


tortured and abused peasants, students, workers looking
moved by Our concern for the plight of undocumented
for opportunity, all have left the land of their birth in the
immigrants sojourning in the United States, urgently
hope that they might satisfy the desire for life that
invite you to share with us in the effort to love the
sojourner. moves all human beings. Many immigrants come to LIS

voluntarily as a result of the difficult decision to leave


home in quest of better circumstances; others, like the
Anxious parents, hungry and frightened children, Haitian and Central American refugees, who are forced
out of their homeland by persecution and the teITible

72

73
Learn
A person crosses the border by going down a road from the city of Jerusalem to the city of Jericho.
Jerusalem in Jesus' day was the center of religious power and ethnic identity. Jerusalem was hostile to the
people of Jericho. A lawyer and a minister pass by on the other side of the road. They don't look at the
stranger on the other side. Literalists, they need to determine who specifically the scripture says is my
neighbor before they are willing to act. They do not want to be held legally liable for responding to his
need. Moreover, if she is not a neighbor, they are not obliged to help. If she is not a neighbor, they can pass
on by and not think twice. Ifshe is not a neighbor, the best thing to do is ignore the problem because their
actions could make matters worse. They walk away _justified in their position.
Enter a Samaritan. We don't know his name, only where he came from. We don't know what he thinks
about the person laying on the road. But we know he is called Good. Jesus' listeners knew about
Samaritans. Samaritans were from across the border. They took risks to cross over borders. They were
taught to be seen as the enemy - the source of many social and political problems in Israel. They don't
live next to us. Their children don't play with our children or go to the same schools or go to the same
church together. Even worse: Because Samaritans were ethnically and racially less than Israelites and seen
as a threat across their national borders, Samaritans had less access to good farms and had a difficult time
growing food for their families. They had fewer doctors, teachers and jobs.
Jesus asks: "Who loved their neighbor? Who showed mercy and who did justice?"
Ifwe were to write a sequel to this parable, can we imagine that the good people of Jericho and Jerusalem
got together and took control of their situation? They faced those fears that caused them to see each other as
enemies and not welcomed neighbors. They didn't want this tragedy to happen again so they put more
streetlights on the dark Jericho road, built a health clinic in case it ever did. They offered clean water and
found out why people were walking on the road away from their homes in the frrst place.
They discovered people were desperate because they needed not just food but work. So they decided to
train people for good-paying jobs so that they would not depend on handouts. They walked on the Jericho
road night after night and prayed with the people who traveled across the borders. They learned people's
language, music and stories, ate and shared food together. They build peace parks to celebrate those who
were peacemakers. They told newspapers, radio and TV and stood up to Rome and Jerusalem and protested
when the needs of the people on the road to Jericho were neglected and intentionally overlooked. When we
really know our neighbors, we'll know what is really expected of us.
With whom do we most and least identify? How can our Christian response to immigrants mirror the
biblical model of offering welcome, mercy and justice? How is this parable living itself out in our nation
and our church today as we respond to the needs of immigrants and recognize their assets in our
communities?

Act
People from all over the world migrate to the United States for a number of reasons. Some immigrants
come to reunite with family members who arrived previously. Certain sectors of the U.S. economy, such as
the agricultural industry, demand an influx of large numbers of migrants to work in a depleted job market.
International trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFT A) have had a
negative impact on nations such as Mexico, forcing immigrants to leave their homes just in order to
survive.
From the founding of the United States to the present our nation is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have
historically come to the United States with new energy for work, hope for a better life, and holding the
shared values that have helped build this country. It is not difficult to say that the vitality and growth of the
United States is largely, ifnot entirely, due to the presence ofimmigrants. Today, immigrants remain a
significant part of this country's communities, schools, workplaces, and churches. They are our neighbors.
Indeed, they are us.

Pray
Lord Jesus Christ, you ask us to love mercy and do justice and to see ourselves and you in our neighbors
who cross borders. Help us to be reconciled to our neighbors and find reconciliation in you. Amen.
, ~.. :
" .

Learn
"Joseph couldn't hold himself in any longer, keeping up a front before all his attendants. He cried out,
'Clean them out- everyone leave!' So there was no one with Joseph when he identified himself to his
brother. But his sobbing was so violent that the Egyptians couldn't help hear him." (Gen. 45: 1-2 The
Message Version)
The biblical story of Joseph is a story of family love and jealousy, favoritism and deceit. It also celebrates
the powerful bond of family relations. Even after being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, even
after years of building a new life for himself in a foreign land, Joseph loves his family deeply. His heart is
filled with compassion in being with his brothers once again and in hearing news of his father. Even after
years of separation they are close to his heart and he weeps uncontrollably when he is finally able to reveal
himself to them.
Family bonds are hard to break. Families, for all their positives and negatives, travel with (in) us even as
we go from from home and make our way in the world.
The Postal Museum is a fascinating, though relatively unknown, museum located by Union Station in
Washington, D.C. In it one can find a display of actual letters sent back to beloved relatives by family
members who have left home to make new lives for themselves in faraway lands. Many tell stories of
hardship, danger, homesickness, misfortune and death. Others recount personal stories of success, new
friends and new communities of belonging. All of them convey a message oflove connecting relatives
separated by miles of frontier lands or even vast oceans. Many of us can relate to the pain of familial
separation, the grief of personal loss, and the challenge of making a home in a new community. We can
also, perhaps, relate to the hope and optimism that can accompany moving to a new place of living.
This is the immigrant story. Each one unique. Each one involving separation and pain. Each one inspired
by determination and hope. Joseph, like many immigrants, knew the grief of separation. We are blessed to
see that, after a period of long years, he also came to know the joy of family reunion.

Questions for reflection


I) Think about a time when you were separated from your family.
2) Were you ever united once again?
3) Were your feelings at that time similar to those experience by Joseph?
4) Think about the lives and families of new immigrants in our communities. How might their feelings be
similar or different from those of Joseph?

Act
One of the main reasons for migration is family reunification. When one member ofa family migrates to
another country the goal is often to establish secure financial footing so that the rest of the family can
ultimately be reunited. The United States was built on a history of families enduring a short time of
separation, so that they could be reunified in order to build a stable future for themselves and the rest of the
country.
However, under current immigration laws, there is a huge backlog of families separated because of
immigration. Waiting times can last for more than five years, creating unnecessary stress and economic
hardship for families
Therefore, family reunification is a major point of our advocacy regarding comprehensive immigration
reform. The Book of Discipline states that we as United Methodists "believe the family to be the basic
human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility,
respect, and fidelity" (BOD #161-A). Because the family is the basic unit in society for socialization,
compassionate nurture, and for providing economic stability we are emphasizing that any legislation
concerning immigration contain measures to reunify families separated by immigration.
You can act today and urge your Representative and Senators to adopt comprehensive immigration reform,
especially the reunification of families at http://www.umpower.org

Pray
Lord Jesus, your family moved from their own country, Palestine, and found safety, work and home in a
new country, Egypt. We pray for families both united and divided by borders. We pray for their safety and
their meaningful work. We pray for a renewed sense of home. May your Spirit help our churches and
communities to be hospitable, welcoming places, so that all immigrant families, migrant families and
refugee families, united or divided by borders, can feel at home and find a place of worth and belonging.
We pray in the name of the One Triune God, who is making all things new. Amen.
Learn
Two-thirds of the families that heard Jesus teach were agrarian workers, whose labor generated
vast sums of wealth for roughly one percent of the population. Jesus' own first disciples were
familiar with paying the burden of high taxes, rural sharecropping, urban displacement and wars
of occupation. How the poverty industry works is best seen in this parable of the vineyard
workers (Matthew 20: 1-6).
A householder begins the workday by paying his day-laborers a denarius a day - a living wage
for their economy. Then he goes out into the marketplace and hires more laborers. He says that
he will, "Pay them what is right." Two more times, at the sixth and then at the ninth hour the
householder goes to the marketplace and hires more laborers. At the eleventh hour, with only one
hour of work left, he goes out and hires the last group of laborers.
Why did he do that?
In Jesus' day the plight of the day laborer was particularly critical, even worse than the situation
of a slave. Slaves at least had the advantage of being called someone's property. Slaves could be
compensated for their work. But day-laborers had no attachment to a household and
consequently had no social protections. As expendable people without rights or access to legal
remedy, day-laborers were easily exploited. Their life expectancy was shorter than average. Day-
laborers were necessary but expendable.
Didn't he care that he would lose a lot of his profit?
The householder in the parable is not concerned with the size of the harvest. He is more
concerned that no one should intentionally go idle and without work. The householder does not
really care about the personal cost of hiring workers several times a day at the same salary. He
cares about the necessity to find work for everyone who is in jeopardy because ofthe economy.
So what's the point?
First, there is more than enough work. In fact, we consume too much in a world of limited
resources and many workers are cut off from the fruit of their labor. In the kingdom of God,
those who are hired at the end of day will get paid the same as those who arrived first. They will
receive more than what they are worth or what society determines because the householder is
determined to pay them "what is right."
Second, this is a story about gratitude and generosity. Our salvation is connected with how we
treat day laborers: Those for whom work offers no access to the means of production, work that
provides enjoyment of the fruit of their own labor, work in which human labor becomes a cheap
commodity. Jesus wanted to restore community by bringing people in not shutting them out.
Jesus asks us to enlarge our hearts and reprioritize our values.

Questions for reflection


1) How similar is this parable to the situation of day laborer immigrants are treated today - as
necessary but expendable, human beings?
2) With whom do we identifY the most? The householder? The works who came early or the
workers who came late in the day? Why?

Act
Fair wages are essential to providing dignity for all workers - documented and undocumented.
Since the adoption of the first Social Creed in 1908, our church has advocated for a living wage
in every industry. Unfortunately, far from providing a living wage, today's minimum wage
(which notably fails to cover all workers) provides only $5.15 per hour - a level unchanged
. '.
••
since 1997. For a single parent of one child working forty hours per week, fifty-two weeks per
year, the minimum wage is not enough to keep that family out of poverty.
Recent immigrants to the United States comprise a growing share of the low-wage workforce-
roughly 20 percent of all low-wage earners. In recent years, the United Methodist Church has
taken strong action to improve the lives of some of the lowest paid workers in the United States.
Through successful boycotts of Taco Bell and Mt. Olive Pickle Company, the church helped
raise the standard ofliving and wages of farm workers in North Carolina and Florida. Today, one
of the most critical worker justice and anti-poverty struggles is the effort to increase the federal
mllllmum wage.
While many states - most recently North Carolina and Pennsylvania - have taken action to
increase their minimum wages above that of the current federal level, the United States Congress
has failed to act. In recent weeks, Congressional leadership has indicated that action on the
minimum wage before the end of the year is likely. For further information on the minimum
wage and how you can take action to provide fairer compensation for low-wage workers, visit
www.umpower.org

Pray
o God, you have bound us together in this life.
Give us grace to understand how our lives depend on the courage, the industry, the honesty, and
the integrity of all who labor.
May we be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our
responsibilities to them, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

by Reinhold Niebuhr, 20th century


Learn
In the first chapter of Acts, the disciples ask Jesus an astonishing question. "So when they had
come together they asked him, 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to
Israel?''' (Acts 1:6 NRSV). What is so stunning about this question is that it comes after Jesus'
death and resurrection. They know him at this time, more than at any time previously, as truly
the incarnate Christ, the savior of the world and yet their minds are still focused on the benefits
that God's Kingdom will bring to their own nation.
The disciples' thinking still reflects their overwhelming concern for the welfare of their own
country, their own people, themselves. Indeed, intricately woven into the concern for
international preeminence is an unhealthy concern for personal advance. When the return of
God's Kingdom is matched with a particular nation's self-interest the ultimate result is
nationalism. Nationalism by any nation is continually rebuked by God throughout Scripture,
including Israel.
It is in Jesus' curious answer to the disciples' question that we gain an insight in to how we are to
relate to people of other cultures. "He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that
the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has
come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the
ends of the earth' " (Acts 1:7-8 NRSV). Power is clearly given not through nationalistic self-
interest, but in and through service and witness to Jesus to all of the nations throughout the earth.

Act
One of the fallacies of the current immigration debate that is continually repeated is the myth that
says none of the undocumented who are presently in the United States wants to become U.S.
citizens. However, according to a 2003 New York Times/CBS poll among foreign-born
Hispanics, 70% say they identify with the U.S. more than their home countries. Further, a Johns
Hopkins University study found that 90% of second-generation children speak English well or
very well. Lastly, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, 5% of all enlisted personnel on
active duty in armed forces are immigrants. Truthfully, the vitality of U.S. society and culture is
dependent upon immigrants.
Assimilation to the predominant culture is necessary for success for migrants to any nation. But,
assimilation cannot be legislated. One important aspect of assimilation is learning English. While
learning English is a crucial step in the path to citizenship, requiring it in order for people to gain
access to necessary resources like medical care is unwise and presents a potential health risk for
the entire community. The truth is that within ten years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants
speak English well; moreover, demand for English classes at the adult level far exceeds supply.
What is more urgently needed than legislative requirements on English proficiency are resources
for English classes.
To celebrate the cultures of the world from which so many people in the United States come take
time this week to ask recent immigrants about their home countries.

Pray
Lord, we pray for forgiveness for any time that we have been more concerned about our own
country more than your Kingdom.
Lord, we pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to equip us for service and witness to all
the nations of the world even - and especially when - the people who represent those nations
live right around the comer. Amen.
t
t'
Learn
Garrison Keillor, renowned storyteller and host of Prairie Home Companion, tells of a Minnesota
father and farmer who never thought twice about discrimination against women until the local
school board tried to cut spending for his daughter's basketball team. Suddenly, he saw the world
with newly opened eyes. Those of us who live among the privileged majority in America need to
have our eyes opened as well.
Take healthcare for example. The majority of Americans have ready access to quality healthcare
services, services that are among the best in the world. Most of us cannot even imagine what it is
like to stay awake all night worrying about a sick child with a high fever and not having a doctor to
call. Most of us don't often think about neighbors who are daily denied many, many basic human
services. The fact is, 46 million Americans have no health insurance. If they become sick, they
have to rely on their own savings to cover all of their expenses. And then if their money runs out
they must rely on the charity of others. This is one component of the healthcare crisis in the
United States.
It is an injustice and it is humiliating for so many people in America, the wealthiest country in the
world, to have to beg for healthcare when they are met by a health crisis. In most nations people
get healthcare without begging.
As bad as this injustice is. There is even more to the health care story. Many have long assumed
that the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrant workers in the United States make up a
great deal of that charity healthcare cost, that these families are the ones filling our emergency
rooms. A recent study indicates this is not the case, see Act for more information.
So if the undocumented are not turning to our healthcare networks for care, where do they go?
Are they the only people in the United States who never get sick or injured? Evidently, our
undocumented neighbors are avoiding seeking healthcare assistance because they know they
are vulnerable, they are living in a constant state of fear that they might be found out.
As Christians, a system of providing healthcare only to the privileged is unacceptable. It must be
challenged. It cannot be denied that the Bible often supports protecting the rights of "aliens" who
dwelt in the midst of the Israelites. Scripture consistently calls on the people of Israel to treat their
alien neighbors with the exact same respect and dignity they would offer one another. The exact
same! Aliens were to have the same privileges and the same responsibilities, the same rights and
the same respect.
It is very clear, the Bible stands for equal rights and complete justice for all people. Yet, there are
now, in our media and our public forums, so many shrill voices who, without apology, advocate
for harsh treatment of the undocumented among us. There are so many who voice their belief
that even the most basic human services should be denied to the undocumented immigrants
living in the shadows of our communities How can we as people who claim to believe in the God
revealed in the Scriptures, who claim to support American values of "liberty and justice for all,"
who claim to to be committed to demonstrating compassion of God for the "least of these" among
us, turn around and advocate denying even basic healthcare to our neighbors in need.

Pray
Gracious Savior, great physician, who reaches out in compassion to touch and bless all those
who cry for help. Make us ever mindful of all those who suffer challenges to health. Give us
compassionate hearts. Guide us as your people to advocate for just and merciful systems that will
address the health
concerns of all of our neighbors, regardless of rank or privilege. Support your children, 0 God, in
their time of trial, provide for them in time of need. And finally, 0 God, Make us ever thankful for
the gift of hope and promise of health that we may recommit
ourselves to faithfully work for wholeness and restoration for all the brokenness of creation.
Amen.

Act
Healthcare in this nation is in a severe crisis. First, while claiming a stellar health care system,
U.S. society tolerates 46 million uninsured people and a growing number of underinsured people
• •
i ,," .• .•
going without health care. Large U.S. companies struggle with rising health care costs. Even in
the United Methodist Church, annual conferences face difficult decisions as they look for ways to
cover active and retired clergy and lay employee health care while burdened with spiraling health
care costs.
The time for radical surgery on our health care system is long overdue. Our system is not
working; costs to the economy, states, taxpayers, and individuals; inefficiencies; limited coverage;
and limits to doctor's best practices to ensure a larger profit are contrary to God's promise of a "a
future and a hope, not for harm but for good" (Jer. 29: 11) for all people. Leading economists
have argued that a universal health care system would actually cost less than the current system
and benefit the U.S. economy.

The U.S. Census figure of 46 million uninsured does not include undocumented people. The
misperception that undocumented people flood emergency rooms for primary care resulting in a
rise in costs was recently debunked. The study showed that communities with high levels of
uninsured, Hispanic, or immigrants had much lower rates of emergency room use than other
communities. For example, in 2003 noncitizens had, on average, 17 fewer visits per 100 people
than citizens. (Center for Studying Health System Change, Journal of Health Affairs, July 18,
2006) Would we allow a child or adult in this country who may not be a citizen to suffer and
possibly die and walk away? Read Luke 10:25-37 for Jesus' answer to this question.
The United Methodist Church is unequivocal in the Social Principles, calling health care a "right"
for each person. You can take action by supporting measures in your state to ensure that
coverage is extended to all. Join your state health care advocacy network by linking to
www.uhcan.org and finding your state's representative. To support universal health care
measures link to www.healthcare-now.org. Sign the petition calling for health care for all. With
both groups sign up for the updates to notify you of important actions in which you can be
involved.
Visit the GBCS Health care Web page for further resources on health care at www.umc-
gbcs.org/healthcare
Learn
Micah 4:3-4 "(God) will establish justice in the
rabble of nations and settle disputes in faraway
places. They'll trade in their swords for shovels,
and their spears for rakes and hoes. Nations will
quit fighting each other, quit learning how to kill
one another. Each man will sit under his own shade
tree, each woman in safety, will tend her own
garden." (The Message /Peterson)
Many times I have studied this passage and focused on
the section about "beating swords into plowshares
(shovels) while ignoring the next line about each man
having his own shade tree and each woman having her
own gar den. This passage serves to highlight the
importance of each person having a "stake" in the
community, a place to call their own.
In our world community this is not the case. Wealth
gravitates to the wealthy and the poor get poorer.
During the Depression, the u.s. government, following
a vision presented by Eleanor Roosevelt, began buying
up large tracks of acreage and distributing them in
forty acre tracts to poor farmers who could never
acquired them otherwise. Many thousands of Americans
were working at that time as sharecroppers, working
the fields but never owning the property they worked.
With this government program, many thousands became
landowners. My own grandfather was among these
thousands. This was, for him, just the "hand up" that
he needed to get his life progressing. He never
looked back.
Sometimes all it takes is a little garden plot and a
shade tree to transform a family's life.
But many around the world have lost their stake in
the world economic structure. I have a friend who is
a pastor in Mindanao, an island in the southern
Philippines. He described for me how a hundred years
ago his island had many small business people. Many
fishermen owned their own boats. Many small tract
farmers tilled their own soil. Others had a variety
of small businesses that supported the local economy.
Now large transnational fishing and farming
industries control the waters and much of the land.
Other transnationals control the mining industry and
timber industry. People no longer have a stake in
their work but work mainly for the benefit of others.
Many have been displaced in the process. Whole
communities are bought by mining interests and the
people removed.
It is impossible for the world to truly have "fair
trade" when the rules and the benefits of trade are
established to reward the large corporations at the
expense of the producers and workers. Small, locally
owned farms cannot compete with subsidized corporate
farms in the developed nations of North America and
Europe. So more and more farmers are losing their
livelihoods and often their land as well. Millions
have sought refuge by migrating to cities or to
wealthier nations in search of a better life.
Millions have come to the United States because their
farms could no longer compete with government
subsidized "factory" farms in the United States.
We must also be mindful of the many hundreds of
thousands of displaced workers "migrating" from
middle class manufacturing jobs to poorer paying jobs
in the service industry. All these are the result of
an economic model built on a philosophy of "free
trade."

Challenge
Take the following challenge this week:
1) Go through your home and identify the products
that were produced within one hundred miles of your
home. What about within your home state? What about
within your home country?
2) What things can you do to support local producers
and industries? Do you think this is important to the
prosperity and security of people in your area?

Act
Immigrant workers face numerous obstacles, from low
wage jobs and exploitation to harassment and limited
legal protections. Free trade policies can lead to an
increase of immigrant workers.
Free trade agreements, such as the North American
Free Trade Agreement, lead to massive increases in
immigration. Under these policies, small businesses,
small farmers, and craftspeople are pushed out of
livelihoods by multinational corporations and giant
agribusinesses. When small businesses close and
farmers are driven off their land, unemployment and
poverty skyrocket. Migration increases because of the
failure of new jobs to replace those that have been
eliminated. Between 1996 and 2000, as the effects of
NAFTA were realized, the Mexican peso was devalued,
and land reforms were curbed, and the number of
Mexican immigrants in the U.S. nearly doubled.
Immigrant workers in low-paying jobs with few
benefits or protections are susceptible to job
insecurity and trade-related job loss. Efforts by
immigrant and nonimmigrant workers to bargain
collectively for better wages or conditions have been
undermined by free trade policies, since employers
can threatened to move production overseas where
cheap labor is readily available. As job insecurity
rises and jobs move to the next cheapest labor
source, immigrants are oftentimes unfairly targeted
as scapegoats for economic uncertainty. The resulting
tension between immigrant and nonimmigrant workers
obscures the real problem of free trade and
immigration.
Free trade policies must be replaced by fair trade
ones. International recognized labor standards should
be a part of trade agreement. Poor countries should
be allowed to protect their small business and
farmers from multinationals and agribusinesses.
Citizens must have a say in the trade negotiations.

Thanks to Citizens Trade Campaign, a coalition of


which the General Board of Church and Society is a
member, for providing information for this article.

Pray
God's vision for the world is one where all people
have security and a place of belonging.
Help us as we work toward God's shalom, where
everybody can make a dignified living and have a
place to call home - a place where a man can sit
under his own shade tree and a woman can tend her own
garden.
Amen.
Learn
Scripture and tradition have too often rationalized violence against women and children and to
encourage the shame, self-blame, and silent suffering that survivors too often endure. Stories of
domestic violence against women and children are so common that we scarcely notice them,
even in the Bible. Yet, they are there: Women, only a few of them are even named, are sexually
abused, psychologically terrorized, abused by brothers, husbands and strangers as a strategies of
war. Daughters and sons are traded and sacrificed, acts rationalized by religion gone very bad.
Consider the members of this household of violence found in Judges 19.
It is a story of a triple cycle of oppression: The oppression of a nameless women first sold and
then taken from her home to serve as a sex slave or concubine in another country; the oppression
of a migrant, isolated Levite man, wholly dependent on the hospitality of strangers, who chooses
to sacrifice his "wife" to secure his own safety and belonging in a foreign land; and the
oppression of a gang of male patriots, who are so fearful of migrant strangers, that they
repeatedly gang rape this nameless woman as an act of terror. Finally, the scapegoated,
concubine wife is sliced into pieces by her master-husband who trades her body to the authorities
in order to seek retribution.
The cycle of violence extends beyond the household to rationalize and rally people to war.
Judges 19 ends with this admonishment: "Think about it! Talk it over. Do something." (Judges
19:30 Peterson's version) Breaking cycles of domestic violence means we pay attention to the
plight of vulnerable women, children and men who because of their immigrant status are even
more apt to suffer in silence. We are to "Think about it! Talk it over. Do something."
The church then must re-examine the theological messages it communicates in light of the
experiences of victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. We must treat with extreme care
the important, but often-misused, concepts of suffering, forgiveness, and the nature of marriage
and the family.
Maya Angelou's poem is an apt prayer for all those who seek healing and wholeness for
immigrants hoping for a way out of this cycle of abuse.

Did you want to see me broken?


Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like tear drops,
weakened by my soulful cries?

You may shoot me with your words,


you may cut me with your eyes,
you may kill me with your hatefulness,
but still, like air, I'll rise.

Out of the huts of history's shame,


up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
welling and swelling, I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear


into a day that's wondrously clear,
bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
•••
..
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise. I rise. I rise.

Act
In the United States, we celebrated the unanimous reauthorization by Congress of the expanded
Violence Against Women Act in December 2005. But since the thumbs up came at the end of the
year, President Bush did not include full funding in his FY2007 budget. Your voice is needed to
make sure this life-saving, cost effective initiative receives the highest level of funding possible.
VA WA funding covers a number of major programs with separate budgets. Funding categories
include criminal justice, direct services and shelter, prevention and early intervention, children
and youth programs, and Native American and Alaskan programs. The authorizing bill supported
a funding level of $1 billion.
VAWA saved the U.S. nearly $14.8 billion dollars in social costs in its first 6 years, according to
researcher Kathryn Anderson Clark. Still, it is alarming that even now, one in four women will
be a victim of domestic violence during her lifetime according to the National Institute of Justice
and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
The following are some of the new VA WA programs that are not funded in the President's 2007
budget request: services for children who witness abuse; sexual assault services; privacy
protections for victims of violence; programs for communities of color and Native American
women and prevention - encouraging men and boys role in ending violence against women.
These are some of the continuing VA WA programs that have not received full funding in the
President's budget: national domestic violence hotline; family violence prevention and services
act shelter and services; rape prevention and education; services for older and disabled victims of
violence; legal assistance for victims of violence and transitional housing.
Why should United Methodists support this legislation? The Social Principles of The United
Methodist Church state: "We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms - verbal,
psychological, physical, sexual- is detrimental to the covenant of the human community. We
encourage the Church to provide a safe environment, counsel and support for the victim. While
we deplore the action of the abuser, we affirm that person to be in need of God's redeeming
love."
Contact members of Congress to urge full funding of the Violence Against Women's Act 2005!
Go to http://www.house.gov or http://www.senate.gov.

Pray
o God who dwells among us as a member of our household, who is known to us in the Wisdom
of traumatized sojourners, whose striking resilience gives us courage to speak up and out, and
whose tragic death causes us shock and disbelief, help us now to see you incarnate and enfleshed
in this nameless woman, blamed and scapegoated to appease a rage filled, nationalistic mob.
When we hear your still small voice among the sexually violated, move us from prolonged
passivity to rise up with determination on her behalf.
When we feel the pain of her hidden shame, physical wounds and emotional trauma, cause us to
people of sanctuary, protection and healing.
When we offer violence for violence rush to warring madness against the already vulnerable,
Lord have mercy on us - forgive us our collective sin, and bless us to be agents of liberation for
all caught in the cycle of domestic and family violence. Amen