Last weekend I had the honor of participating in the annual conference held by the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN) in Nashville, TN. SEIRN invited me to co-lead a workshop about connecting faith communities with immigration issues, which is a large part of my daily work with the NC Council of Churches.
As I said during my session, one of the biggest obstacles to churches becoming more engaged is that conversations about immigration are often understood as conversations that don’t belong in church.
Here at the Council, our work is all about providing (free!) resources to help start and sustain those meaningful conversations about issues that affect all of us as children of God and as North Carolinians – including immigration. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand or label some issues as “political” and others as “religious.”
How we relate to our new neighbors, many of whom are fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, is a moral and spiritual issue. And U.S. immigration policies have profound impacts on families and workers. At a recent clergy meeting, a Latino pastor reminded all of us: “Please remember, when one part of the body is hurt, the whole body is affected, we [immigrants] are here and we are part of the body of Christ. Please do not amputate us.”
Here are some resources that we are making widely available:
Finally, here’s a little more background on SEIRN: Several groups including the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), the Coalition for a New Georgia and the Center for Community Change (CCC) and the Highlander Center worked with the Four Freedoms Fund and the American Dream Fund to organize the first ever Southeast Immigrant’s Rights Conference. The first gathering of the Southeast Immigrant’s Rights Network was held in Atlanta in December of 2006. The conference was established to facilitate communication, cooperation, peer-to-peer learning, strategizing and coalition building opportunities on the regional level among immigrant rights organizing and advocacy groups.
— Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate