Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Call and Repercussions to Hospitality

When Christians live their calling to an extravegant welcome, showing forth Christian hospitality to strangers, we are living and doing something both Jesus and our ancestors of the Judeo faith have practiced for millenias. But that is not without risks. It might be surprising to some to discover that not everyone believes that offering help to strangers is a good thing. For one thing, some people may fear that aiding strangers is akin to accepting everything about that person--and condoning their lifestyles and behaviors. Which it isn't of course, showing hospitality is giving aid and welcome to people regardless of their situation(s) in life.

Another reason people are hesitant to be hospitable to strangers is fear. These people fear the unknown and fear anything that represents change or a modification to a consistent life.

And currently, the new excuse to be inhospitable to strangers is our American nationalism which has the false notion that if you give aid to an immigrant, you are being unAmerican and unconcerned about our economic entitlements earned by our American ancestors as well as "taking away our jobs" as if our people are willing to be migrant farm workers and restaurant cooks.

But as Christians, we must resist this form of nationalism and name it as idolatry pure and simple. We are called to live by the standards of love and hospitality; not rejection and hate. An article in this month's UCC News tells the story of a congregation in Arizona that is reaching out to offer aid and care for those immigrants who risk their lives sneaking into the U.S. How might Jesus respond to such a delimna? This congregation is responding pretty well.

Below you'll find a couple of paragraphs highlighting my rant; at the end of it, there'll be a link to the entire story.


Rowe is a longtime Humane Borders volunteer and helped found No More Deaths — a coalition of faith-based and human rights groups that maintain base camps in the desert from May through September, offering emergency first aid and sustenance to migrants in distress. Mayer's congregation supported one camp by bringing home-cooked meals weekly to volunteers.

As humanitarian efforts ramped up during the last six years, the groups communicated regularly with the Border Patrol. Each let the other do his or her job, and sometimes, Border Patrol agents would allow humanitarians to care for migrants rounded up for deportation. But when the Border Patrol got a new Tucson sector chief, the relationship deteriorated, Rowe said.

Last July, two No More Deaths volunteers were arrested for evacuating three migrant men in need of emergency medical attention. The volunteers followed the group's long-established protocol, which includes calling a volunteer nurse or doctor about whether to transport a person to a Tucson hospital.

The arrests are a misuse of laws intended to target human smugglers, Rowe says, and the goal is to make people afraid to help migrants. "People who would follow their Christian teachings and offer assistance are afraid to offer so much as a cup of water or food to anyone they encounter. If they find someone in a ditch at the side of the road, they are afraid to stop and help," Rowe says.

A trial is scheduled for April 25. The volunteers, Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, are charged with two felony counts each, and could face up to 15 years in prison.

Read the entire story here.

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