Today, we are featuring an excerpt from a new book entitled The Church and Migration: A Theological Vision for the People of God. Local theologian Daniel Montanez is a PhD student at the Boston University School of Theology and is the primary editor for this book, which explores the theme of human migration throughout the grand narrative of Scripture.
Read the excerpt below by Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Academic Dean of Centro Latino & Associate Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, who reminds us of the need to start any conversation about migration from the perspective of our faith in order to foster unity and reconciliation.
“What about illegal do you not understand?” I have received this question and similar questions after multiple presentations about immigration in different churches over the past forty years. The questioners have been angry, frustrated, sometimes confused. It seems obvious to them that there is no acceptable reason for crossing a border without legal documentation or overstaying a VISA. At the same time, however, there are often people in the same audience (if the church is large enough) or at a minimum in the same Church denomination, who have personally experienced a broken immigration system and who empathize deeply with those who have ended up on the wrong side of that system. Many churches and denominations owe the majority of their growth over the past decades to immigrant Christians and to immigrants who become Christians through the missionary efforts of migrant believers. This is a family fight, a conflict between children of the same God, brothers and sisters, members of the same Body of Christ. The battle is often fought on political grounds, with little to no input from the scriptures that they share.
This book reminds Christians that we are standing on common sacred ground. If we are to have any hope of reconciliation, we must start any conversation about migration from the perspective of our faith. That perspective includes theology, of course, disciplined reflection on the Word and will of God. The authors in this book are grounded in orthodox Christian theology. They are also creative. I have been working with and teaching about these issues for many years, yet I found myself moved, inspired and provoked. The contents of this book go beyond theology to spirituality. The authors of these chapters call us to the deepening of our faith, hope, and love. Most of this book is written by people who have experienced migration, either through their own personal journey and/or through the experiences of their loved ones. They call us to incarnate the heart of God as we approach not only the issue but the people who are impacted by it. For that reason, it also goes beyond asking us to reconsider how we think about migration to how we practically respond to the plight of migrants.
To fully receive the gift of this book, approach it with both an open mind and an open heart. If you are a migrant, you may be encouraged and perhaps even healed from some of the wounds of shame, slander, and rejection. If you are confused about migration, you may attain some clarity. If you are angry about migration, you may hear a challenging but important message that could deepen your faith. Regardless, you will be blessed.