Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The benefits of a global UMC perspective on the US immigration crisis

If you haven't yet read Rev. Juan Guerrero's piece entitled "Why Honduran children are coming to the U.S." do so.  Rev. Guerrero, who serves the United Methodist Mission in Honduras, provides a perspective from Honduras on the recent wave of unaccompanied children that have been coming to the United States.  He not only speaks to some of the underlying forces producing this migration but is also able to tell personal stories about the challenges of life in poor areas of Honduras, challenges that affect United Methodists there as well.

Rev. Guerrero's article does more than just inform us about Honduras and immigration, though.  It points out one of the benefits of the UMC being a global church.  Were the UMC a US-only church, we would not have people like Rev. Guerrero working in Honduras, or any of the other legion of pastors, missionaries, and laity in myriad countries around the world who can speak to issues there, or a communication network like UMCommunications and the United Methodist News Service who can make their voices heard in the US.

The recent wave of immigration by unaccompanied minors from Central America to the US has certainly been a hot-button issue within the US.  Yet the temptation for Americans is to think of this as only an American issue and therefore to see it in American terms: as a humanitarian issue calling for charity by Americans, as a political issue demonstrating the shortcomings of one American political party or another, as a policy issue requiring American legislative or administrative action, as a cultural issue highlighting the red state/blue state divide in America.

The simple fact of the matter, though, is that "America's immigration crisis" is not only an American issue.  It's a trans-national issue.  The story of these unaccompanied minors is not one we can understand if we look only at what's going on in America.  To fully understand the story, we need to look at what's going on in America AND Honduras, not to mention El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and perhaps other countries as well.  Moreover, we need to look beyond events that have happened in just the last few weeks to events that happened years or even decades ago.

Rev. Guerrero's piece does all that.  Having voices like his in the UMC that can add to our understanding of the immigration issue is a real asset, one that comes from our nature as a global church.  Moreover, this benefit of the UMC being a global denomination applies not only to Rev. Guerrero and immigration, but also to other United Methodists speaking about other issues - AIDS, disaster relief, environmental degradation, human trafficking, infectious diseases - the list goes on.

The greater understanding we gain from perspectives like Rev. Guerrero's doesn't necessarily lead to easy solutions.  Indeed, greater understanding may help us realize how difficult solutions to some large-scale problems may be.  It should lead us to better solutions, though - solutions that are more informed and are able to incorporate the perspectives of our brothers and sisters in Christ on all sides.  Thus, that greater understanding provided by the presence of global voices in the denomination truly is an asset in carrying out the mission of our denomination.

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