In Focus: Migration
I recently had someone say to me, “Migration? I didn’t know UMCOR was into that.” But we’ve been in this business a long time.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief was formed in 1940 in large part to assist the refugees and displaced persons created by World War II. Even after UMCOR stopped resettling refugees, we supported Church World Service in its refugee resettlement work and CWS is now UMCOR’s recommended refugee resettlement agency. And more recently, since early in the Syrian War, UMCOR has partnered with organizations in countries throughout the region to assist refugees and displaced persons to the tune of well over $5 million.
UMCOR is called to alleviate suffering. Almost all people who migrate to reunite with families, to escape the results of climate change, to flee conflict, or to fulfill a dream of a better life, suffer in various ways at one time or another during migration.
UMCOR works with organizations that ensure the four rights of migrants:
- the right to stay,
- the right to safe passage,
- the right to welcome and
- the right to return
We are developing programs that will help people stay safely in violent countries, and we are working with National Justice for Our Neighbors to provide low-cost legal assistance to poor migrants in the U.S. We have given food to people as they traveled by freight train through Mexico and we have furnished clean clothes and rest after they have been released from detention along the U.S.-Mexico border. We have welcomed refugees to Germany through specialized language training and peer-to-peer support. We are assisting migrants from Venezuela and Argentina. And, we are removing mines and booby traps from homes in Iraq so people can return home safely.
Furthermore, because UMCOR is not only charged to alleviate suffering, but also to “be the conscience of The United Methodist Church” in a world of suffering, we join with the other United Methodist general agencies in encouraging churches to speak out against injustice and policies that are downright “unneighborly.” We support churches that offer sanctuary to those threatened unjustly by deportation, and we encourage congregations to work for restoring the refugee resettlement program.
UMCOR built its name on refugees, and now it is time, perhaps more than ever, for UMCOR to name the refugees and all migrants as people who are in desperate need of God’s grace. But that grace needs your heart, hands, voices and resources to become real and tangible for these vulnerable people.
Finally, I believe that the church will be transformed by this so-called migration crisis – not by filling the pews with migrants, but by changing the hearts and minds of the people in the church. However, the church will only be transformed if it lets itself be transformed. By engaging in bold acts of mercy, we will welcome a stranger and be transformed into the church that God has called us to be.