LSS Bishop’s Christmas Message on Immigration

December 18, 2018
Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Dear partner in ministry:

A Pastoral Christmas Message on Immigration

They were a family of modest means, working folks, who wanted only to live peacefully in their homeland and give their baby son a good life. Unfortunately, instability and danger menaced their turbulent country, and murderous thugs terrorized the innocent.

So they fled the violence, journeying on foot to another country, to find safety and freedom; where they could be unafraid and raise their son in peace.

Another tale of woe from the Caravan of Central American families assembling at our Southern border?

No. It’s the story of Joseph and Mary and Jesus, who escaped Herod’s death squads that were murdering all the young children in and around Bethlehem! Matthew 2:13-16 tells us that under the cover of darkness the Holy Family fled on foot to Egypt and lived there as refugees. Refugees from violence and death.

With only a few details changed, this story might well be told by thousands of the Central American families who are seeking refuge from hunger, violence, mayhem and political instability in their home countries.

As we consider our nation’s simmering immigration crisis, we are wise to remember that Our Savior and his parents were refugees, too. For Jesus, the plight of immigrants seeking safety and a better life is personal. As his followers, Jesus calls us to “welcome the stranger” and care for “the least of these” as a matter of our salvation (Matthew 25:31-46).

In the last two years, our United States government has taken a strong formidable line against immigrants from Central America – detaining families in inhumane and dangerous conditions, separating children and other family members, forcing many to wait for extended periods, and capriciously changing the rules for processing and granting refugee status. Our government has deployed thousands of military personnel to help enforce its hard-line stance.

In these instances our government has departed from our historic practices and policies, as well as United Nations agreements to which our country is a signatory. It has also departed from common decency and the religious values that have made the United States a leader in international human rights.

Along with other Christian communities, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is working to raise awareness of these abuses and mobilize God’s people to speak up.

“We cannot remain silent as our asylum laws are unilaterally changed and our nation’s door is shut to people fleeing dire humanitarian situations,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. “As Lutherans, we have long advocated for reliable and consistent implementation of laws governing asylum-seekers and urge the Administration to continue to ensure broad protection for all who need it and due process at the border.”

Since 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has been assisting those who come to our country. To further accompany children and families in Central America, we adopted a strategy called AMMPARO (short for Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) during the ELCA’s 2016 Churchwide Assembly.

As your bishop, I urge all Lutherans of the Lower Susquehanna Synod to join our church and its advocacy ministries in learning the truth about the refugee crisis, countering myths and falsehoods, educating others and demanding change from our elected leaders. Below you will find some ways to help.

This Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons, as we remember anew that the Holy Family were refugees, we are challenged to look at news photos of refugee families at our Southern border and fail to see the faces of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

God’s blessings for a holy Advent, a joyful Christmas, and an enlightening Epiphany church season.

Yours in Christ,

†James S. Dunlop, bishop
Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA

Take action today:

Sign the pledge to support people seeking asylum in the U.S. The #CaravanPledge is a commitment bringing together people of many faiths and backgrounds who are committed to standing up for the rights of migrants and refugees and creating welcoming communities wherever they are.

Learn more about how Lutherans at the border are helping, including Border Servant Corps, a ministry of Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, N.M. Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey (Christ the King Lutheran Church), El Paso, Texas, operates a ministry for refugees, as well as a border immersion program where God’s people can see firsthand the truth about the immigration crisis.

Follow the LIRS Website.

Follow our ELCA AMMPARO network and become a welcoming or sanctuary congregation.


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