"People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, "Allow the children to come to me. Don't forbid them, because God's kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn't welcome God's kingdom like a child will never enter it.' Then he hugged the children and blessed them." Mark 10:13-16
2,081 children held in detention centers. Children of all ages. Imagine their faces. Imagine their confusion when they cannot understand the language of adults. Imagine their fear. Imagine being surrounded by strangers not knowing what will happen next. Imagine the Image of God resident within each calling God's people to extend compassion, care and prophetic witness. These are our children, because we are a part of the body of Christ.
The US Border Patrol reported on June 13 to Congressional staff that they were holding 2,081 children in detention centers. Children sleeping on concrete floors. No access to soap or showers. No access to toothbrushes or toothpaste. Inadequate food. Imagine caring for our children in this way. I know that our hearts and spirits are incapable of fully understanding this reality, because we would never treat a child in this way. In our daily lives, we would see this kind of treatment as abuse.
We cannot slip silently into the night, ignoring the plight of these children. Children cannot defend themselves, particularly when they speak a different language. It is time for us to root ourselves deeply in the compassion of Jesus who placed his hands-on children and blessed them teaching us that the Kingdom of God belongs to the children.
The United Methodist Church has spoken very clearly on this matter. General Conference delegates from around the world call on us to advocate for the "elimination of indefinite detention [and the] incarceration of children." (Book of Resolutions 3281). We also stated very clearly that we "oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children. (Social Principles paragraph 162.H).
I am asking you to join me in these actions:
- Organize a public prayer vigil. A resource to assist you in organizing one is found on our webpage.
- Contact your Congressional Representatives and our two Ohio Senators. Let them know that you are a United Methodist, a follower of Christ and that the separation and detention of children is cruel and immoral. Demand they work together to find a moral solution to the care of children fleeing violence and civil unrest. Click Here.
- Help your children and young people draw pictures and write letters to send to members of Congress. Click Here.
- Join the West Ohio Immigration Network. Email Dee Stickley-Miner at dstickley [at] wocumc.org
We cannot sit by watching this tragedy and blow it off as mere collateral damage or acceptable loss in the protracted struggle for a sensible immigration policy that works. Now is the time to act and to speak. The care of children is not a partisan issue. It is a moral and ethical issue. Join me in speaking on behalf of our children.
Yours because of Jesus the refugee,
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer