Monday, August 04, 2014

In Response to the Current Humanitarian Crisis along the Border

The following ran in the August 4, 2014 edition of "The Commercial Appeal."

In Response to the Current Humanitarian Crisis along the Border

We, leaders of faith communities throughout Memphis and Shelby County, together with agencies specializing in the ongoing care of children, unite to speak to the humanitarian crisis in which over 57,000 unaccompanied children, between the ages of 3 months and 17 years are encamped within the borders of The United States.  Projections of increasing numbers of children to come notwithstanding, in this current moment we hear the cries of these children who are already here.  Believing that silence in the face of what is before us is both morally unacceptable and unfaithful we come together to offer ourselves in partnership with governmental agencies to provide care for these children. 

No matter the cause, no matter our paths to God, we believe there are moral and religious imperatives calling for a compassionate response in keeping with the very faith we claim.  Our holy scriptures compel us to action:

“Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19.33-34

In Matthew’s Gospel – Jesus said that our care for the hungry, the sick, and the stranger is an outward and visible sign of our love for him:  “‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” - Matthew 25.40b

The Quran says “Be kind to your parents, relatives, orphans, the destitute, your near and distant neighbors, your companions, wayfarers..” Ch.4 V 36

"By the breath of children God sustains the world." Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 119b

“Be sure to welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it. Hebrews 13.1

We live and serve in Memphis, “the city of good abode.”  We respond to crisis.  We come together. This is what we do.   As we did with victims of Hurricane Katrina, as we’ve done and continue to do for the sake of quality public education for our children, we summon the best parts of us to find a way out of no way.  It defines our character as a community. 

We recognize this moment requires a partnership between government and faith communities.  We invite leaders at the local and state levels to join us. Such a partnership and the process developed to provide any of a number of services for these children while long term solutions are sought could be a model easily replicated across the country.  We have been blessed with the gifts and graces of compassionate hearts and logistical skill sufficient to make that level of impact on our country.

We affirm the mandate to respond to this crisis ever aware of the continual humanitarian crisis at home, for the cries of our own city’s children ring loudly in our ears, too.  We renew our commitment to work together for their sake believing that “love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.”  We invite all faith communities to join us in this work believing it to be a witness of our character as people of faith and as citizens of this place we call home.

Eric Brand, Bellevue Baptist Church
Greg Diaz, Nueva Direccion
Earle Fisher, Abyssinian Baptist Church
Eddie Foster, Second Presbyterian Church
Micah Greenstein, Temple Israel
Johnny Jeffords, St. John’s United Methodist Church
David Jordan, Agape Child and Family Services
Larry Lloyd, Memphis Leadership Foundation
Johnny Long, Hope Church
Steve Montgomery, Idlewild Presbyterian Church
Eli Morris, Hope Church
Scott Morris, Church Health Center
Steve Moses, World Relief
Billy Posey, Hope Church
Kenneth Robinson, St. Andrew AME Church
Josh Ross, Sycamore View Church of Christ
Stacy Spencer, New Direction Christian Church
Sandy Willson, Second Presbyterian Church
Rolando Rostro, Iglesia Nueva Vida Church
Debra Kirkwood, Bethany Christian Services
Michael Allen, Catholic Charities of West Tennessee