Global migration is a phenomenon impacting countries around the world at historic highs.
According to the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, there are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, and every five seconds someone else is forced to flee their home. These levels of migration have not been seen since World War II, more than 70 years ago.
Many of us cannot imagine what it must be like to abandon your home nation due to war, natural disaster or economic hardship. Yet this is indeed the reality for many people in countries around the world, including in our own communities. In an effort to protect and provide for their families, some make the difficult decision to look for a new nation to call home.
Migrants escaping violence took refuge at the United Methodist Church in Jalingo, Nigeria in 2017. Photo by the Rev. Ande I. Emmanuel, United Methodist Communications.
What The United Methodist Church says
The United Methodist Church upholds practicing hospitality to migrants, immigrants, refugees, asylees and others without regard to race, status, nationality, or religion.
The United Methodist Social Principles, found in our Book of Discipline, include a section titled Rights of Immigrants that states, "We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination."
A resolution titled Global Migration and the Quest for Justice affirms, "Christians do not approach the issue of migration from the perspective of tribe or nation, but from within a faith community of love and welcome, a community that teaches and expects hospitality to the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed," an echo of Jesus' parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
Another resolution, titled Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S. reads, "Welcoming the migrant is not only an act of mission; it is an opportunity to receive God's grace." This reflects what we are taught in the book of Hebrews, "Don't neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2 CEB).
"Welcoming the migrant is not only an act of mission; it is an opportunity to receive God's grace." (United Methodist Book of Resolutions) Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.
What you can do
Because no person, organization or nation can solve these issues alone, we can convince ourselves there is nothing we can do to make a difference. In reality, there are a variety of things United Methodists can do to stand with and support migrants in our communities and around the world.
Pray. We pray that God will bring peace and justice for all people.
Advocate for legislation. The first time you contact an elected representative can be uncomfortable, but rewarding. Government officials listen to their constituents, so voice your concerns to those in power. Ask them to support policies that are hospitable to refugees and immigrants, and to introduce new legislation to make immigration, refugee and asylum processes just and efficient.
Welcome migrants and refugees to your congregation. Invite those new to your community to learn more about your congregation as a place of Christian worship, a part of the community, and a resource for assistance. Research ways your congregation can serve immigrants in your community.
Support language classes. Many communities need volunteers to teach the dominant language in your nation. In the United States, for example, there are typically needs for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Volunteer to teach. Ask your congregation to host classes.
Donations to UMCOR's Global Migration fund help meet the needs of migrants around the world. Photo by Daniel Peters, United Methodist Communications.
Support local employment counseling services. Many communities have programs that offer assistance to those looking for work. Volunteers are trained to help fill out application forms, prepare resumes and navigate employment websites.
Donate to the UMCOR's Global Migration fund. Our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and United Methodist Global Ministries are working to provide relief and safety to migrants around the world.Or consider providing hygiene kits that will be distributed by UMCOR.
Speak up for a spirit of welcome in your community, locally and nationally. Around the world, xenophobic rhetoric, attitudes, and actions are turning communities into places of inhospitality and exclusion on local and national levels. This is having a real impact on policies and is fomenting acts of violence. Oppose fearmongering and xenophobia in conversations in public and in private—at the market, at church, at school, and at home. Remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). Be an active citizen and speak out to make society better.
“A Call to Action in Response to the Plight of Migrants,” from United Methodist Church and Society, offers some concrete steps you can take.
“Act to Support Migrant Children,” ideas from ResourceUMC.org
“Global Migration and Immigration Rights,” United Methodist Women
"Global Migration: Moving from one place to another is a protected human right," Church and Society, The United Methodist Church.
“Immigration to the U.S.,” Church and Society, The United Methodist Church
Faith and Facts cards:
Global Migration Faith and Facts card, Church and Society (English|español)
Immigration to the U.S. Faith and Facts card, Church and Society (English|español)
Explore these great ideas, including prayer, hygiene kits and more, from United Methodist Global Ministries.
Give to Global Migration: United Methodist Committee on Relief Advance #3022144
The Rev. Jeania Ree Moore, Director of Civil and Human Rights, General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church contributed to this story.
*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.
This story posted December 5, 2018.