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"I was a stranger and you welcomed me ..." (Matthew 25:35)
The Rev. Juan Guerrero, a United Methodist leader in Honduras, knows well the conditions that are driving families in his country to send their children through perilous channels to the U.S.
"[A] fellow United Methodist in Ciudad España had to sell his house to pay a network of smugglers who kidnapped one of his children," Guerrero says. "When the boy was released, he described how another boy was killed in his presence while his parents were on the phone, to intimidate them and force them to sell their properties in Honduras to pay the ransom."
Threats of kidnapping and death by criminal gangs, combined with poverty, have led to thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing to the United States from Central America.
The United Methodist Church is responding in ways few organizations can. Through its network of churches and conferences, it is providing care to children far from home. Through expertly run programs, it is offering relief and legal counsel. And through general agencies, it is providing advocacy and resources.
What does the church say?
"As Christians and United Methodists, we are called to love the stranger in our midst and to treat that stranger as we would our own family," The United Methodist Church states in "Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform," contained in the 2012 Book of Resolutions.
This care for immigrants is rooted in the Bible. "In the New Testament, Jesus' life begins as a refugee to Africa when he and his family flee to Egypt to escape Herod's infanticide," the church states in "Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S."
Immigration is addressed in several other statements adopted by General Conference, the only entity that speaks for the entire church.
Four ways you can act
The Council of Bishops' executive committee is asking all United Methodists to "pray, reflect and engage in acts of compassion."
Every person of faith can:
Tools for congregations
UMC.org/immigration offers a hub of resources. Here are additional possibilities:
Engagement: The General Board of Church and Society offers a resource on welcoming immigrants. The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry and MARCHA, the church's Hispanic/Latino caucus, also offer resources for responding.