I have heard about immigrants more often this year than any year since I worked in the field of refugee resettlement in the 1990s.
As a student of history, I know that the country I have called home for my entire life – America – is a land of immigrants. Without immigration, I would not reside here today.
As a person of faith, I am committed to welcoming, valuing, and loving all people. As a Christian love of neighbor is a fundamental faith practice. The United Church of Christ explains this as succinctly and powerfully as any source: “The Bible is unambiguous in calling us to welcome aliens and strangers in our land, and to love them as we love ourselves.”
The Immigrants Creed
While thinking about the many immigrants in my midst, and while pondering how best to articulate my own beliefs in casual conversation, I encountered The Immigrants Creed. Through basic online research I learned it was written by The Rev. José Luis Casal, an immigrant from Cuba, who was recently appointed director of Presbyterian World Mission for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Casal authored the creed while serving as General Missioner of Tres Rios Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
I encourage you to read the creed through three times
- First read – read aloud without any long pauses and let yourself hear what the creed says
- Second read – read silently and more slowly allowing yourself to pause and consider elements that are especially meaningful or challenging
- Third read – read aloud or silently placing yourself within the creed as a child of God and as one who has immigration as part of your own familial story
I believe in Almighty God, who guided the people in exile and in exodus, the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, the God of foreigners and immigrants.
I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean, who was born away from his people and his home, who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger. When he returned to his own country he suffered under the oppression of Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power. Jesus was persecuted, beaten, tortured, and unjustly condemned to death. But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, not as a scorned foreigner but to offer us citizenship in God’s kingdom.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us, who speaks all languages, lives in all countries, and reunites all races.
I believe that the Church is the secure home for foreigners and for all believers. I believe that the communion of saints begins when we embrace all God’s people in all their diversity.
I believe in forgiveness, which makes us all equal before God, and in reconciliation, which heals our brokenness. I believe that in the Resurrection God will unite us as one people in which all are distinct and all are alike at the same time. I believe in life eternal, in which no one will be foreigner but all will be citizens of the kingdom where God reigns forever and ever.
Whether or not you are a creedal Christian, it is important that you know what you believe well enough that you can share it with others and seek to live it out. This is true generally, and also true of immigration.
Likewise, local congregations should be very intentional about immigration. Faith communities can hold classes and workshops, create safe spaces for real dialogue, and promote shared opportunities for action.
These general remarks apply to all individuals and all faith communities. Many individuals and many specific faith communities have and/or will discern a call to steps that go well beyond these starting points.
- Share how you experienced the three readings of the creed. Was one reading more difficult or more enlightening for you than the others? As a whole did the experience push you toward action (whether introspective or interpersonal)?
- Consider the many immigration issues making national and local news in 2017. How have you responded? How has your faith community responded? Is there a gap in what either you or your congregation claim to believe and the actions either has or has yet to take related to immigration.
Note: The PCUSA provides a page of worship resources related to the topic of immigration that mentions Casal’s creed.Tweet