The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday January 20th

Op-ed: Scripture calls us to welcome the stranger, promote hospitality and seek justice

Immigrant rights is one of the defining civil rights struggles of our time, especially now. The work of the North Carolina Council of Churches’ Immigration Alliance focuses on providing resources for faith communities to think and speak theologically about our encounters with our neighbors. At the same time, we are helping to mobilize people of faith, connecting them with grassroots movements and legislative efforts to empower immigrants here in North Carolina.

Most of our work focuses on education and advocacy at the local level. The Council connects faith communities with legislative efforts to empower immigrants in North Carolina. From advocating for good legislation that would benefit farmworkers and provide a pathway to citizenship, to making calls to representatives for protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. To get involved in this effort, faith communities can host events to raise awareness and call their members to action by sending postcards and calling their representatives.

The Council recently launched the N.C. Sanctuary Coalition in 2018 to support and advocate for immigrants in North Carolina who have entered physical sanctuary, to provide resources to congregations interested in sanctuary, and to discuss ways faith communities can get involved to stand in solidarity with their neighbors. There are currently four immigrants in sanctuary in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Greensboro. They are always looking for volunteers to support these leaders in sanctuary. For more information, visit www.sanctuarync.org.

There are several other ways that faith communities can act to show their support and stand in solidarity with their immigrant neighbors. For congregations that want to raise awareness, there are opportunities to host listening sessions/forums and invite immigrant members of their community to share their experiences. Congregations can also invite local immigrant-led organizations to share ways to get involved and discuss best practices to support their organization and immigrant community.

For congregations that want to take action against the injustices forced upon our immigrant neighbors, there are various opportunities. For smaller actions that create a large impact, members of the community can write letters to immigrants who have been detained and taken to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. For larger actions, groups can create rapid response networks within a faith community. A rapid response network is a group of community members that defend immigrant families from deportation threats. There are several resources online and from immigrant-lead organizations that can guide communities to create a rapid response network.

It is crucial that people of faith respond to the immigration crisis by offering advocacy and welcome in the face of rising anti-immigrant sentiment. Religious communities find in our scriptures traditions which call us to welcome the stranger, promote hospitality and seek justice. 

People of faith are called to take action and there are many opportunities to get involved. Contact Rachel to hear more about these opportunities or to request a presentation. 

Pat Richardson, Donor Relations Coordinator, pat@nccouncilofchurches.org 

Rachel Baker, Immigration Advocacy Program Coordinator, rachel@ncchurches.org

The NC Council of Churches is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, tax id number: 56-0619364, that enables denominations, congregations and people of faith to impact our state on issues such as economic justice and development, human well-being, equality, compassion and peace, following the example and mission of Jesus Christ. Visit our website at www.ncchurches.org.

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