By Nancy MacLaughlin, Greensboro News & Record
When she hears disparaging remarks about undocumented workers, the Rev. Arnetta Beverly thinks of the family she comes across each week at church services.
“Each day, they make a contribution to this country,” said Beverly, pastor of St. Matthews United Methodist Church on Florida Street.
“They work, they pay taxes, they are good citizens, they are good members of the church,” Beverly said. “How many people came through Ellis Island because they wanted a better way of life?”
The church is hosting a statewide clergy breakfast on immigration Thursday, the latest in a series of meetings sponsored by the N.C. Council of Churches.
The issue is a complicated one, Beverly says, but like a lot of people of faith, she is calling on elected leaders to work on an immigration process that unifies families, protects workers’ rights, and provides a clear pathway to citizenship.
The interfaith breakfast discussion, “From Hostility to Hospitality: Immigration and People of Faith,” examines both the theological and practical sides of the debate.
More than 250 bishops, pastors and other faith leaders from North Carolina have attended the series of meetings.
“Faith communities are at their best when they address controversial issues head-on in a thoughtful and respectful way,” said Chris Liu-Beers, one of the event organizers.
“While we may disagree about some of the policy particulars moving forward, we are united in the belief that every person is a child of God and that we are called to offer hospitality to our neighbors.”
This event is especially relevant coming on the heels of a new Arizona law that increases enforcement of immigration law, Liu-Beers said.
“It’s become more polarized in the last few months, and it’s become a lot uglier,” said the Rev. Maria Teresa Palmer, the director of the Multicultural Student Center at N.C. A&T and one of the speakers.
Mass e-mails, for example, purport to show the country losing billions of dollars on immigration, Palmer said. That can be refuted with reputable studies, she said.
“Hopefully, if we train people in the faith community to respond to this hatred and misinformation, we can stop it,” she said.