News headlines often focus on the loud and divisive voices, like angry protesters shouting at school buses carrying some of the 57,000 children who have crossed the Texas border. Churches and volunteers seeking to relieve this humanitarian crisis may not be as interesting to the media, but there are hundreds of people showing the true spirit of hospitality and compassion. First Churches may be far from the Texas border, yet this crisis touches us all. Westover Airforce base may be a site for up to 1000 children in the near future, according to the Hampshire Gazette.
The First Churches Peace and Justice Committee has been working with our brothers and sisters at Iglasia Buatista Nueve Vida Qechua, an Eduadoran congregation, to increase awareness of the immigrant community and to support the Trust Act passage at state and local levels. If Westover becomes a humanitarian center, I think it is an important opportunity to show strong support for the refugee children and immigrants among us. I have written to Chicopee Mayor Kos affirming that the religious community of the Pioneer Valley will offer support and work together. I have listed a variety of resources and articles below, from our denominational website as well as Governor Deval Patrick’s excellent remarks on the biblical call to “welcome the stranger among you.” We will continue to monitor how this unfolds locally and watch for opportunities to serve. Thanks to everyone who contributed during Sunday’s offering.
United Church of the Valley UCC in Murrieta, Calif., was in the center of some of the most hostile responses to this situation captured by the media, such as when angry protestors turned away three buses from Texas filled with refugee children to be processed in Murrieta on July 1. But not all of Murrieta is hostile, said the Rev. Gilford Bisjak, pastor of United Church of the Valley. While the media made a “big play” of the city’s angry protestors, members of Bisjak’s congregation brought a peaceful presence, and were busy collecting food, clothing and toiletries. Church members took part in an interfaith prayer vigil on July 9, spoke out in support of these children at town hall meetings, and continue to advocate for them through their congressional representatives.
“The furor has calmed down because they are not bussing anymore children into our lovely city with open arms and warm hearts,” said Bisjak, jokingly. “Right now we are just kind of standing by, trying to keep this alive, staying aware of what is going on with the larger immigration issue, and doing education and advocacy.” http://www.ucc.org/news/moment-of-prayer-unaccompanied-refugees-07182014.html