"Let My People Go" Ministry Network forms to help immigrant children & families
Posted on by ECCT Media for Ministry Network
July 15, 2019
A Letter to clergy and laity in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut from the Rev. Deborah Meister with the Rev. Ranjit Mathews on behalf of the emerging "Let My People Go" Ministry Network :
In the first parish I served as rector, there was a woman named Cecile. She was brilliant, quirky, strongly opinionated — rarely on the same page as anyone else. She would take hold of an issue or an idea and push it, push it, push it, until everyone around her gave way, not in agreement, necessarily, but in exhaustion. The most immediately distinctive thing about her were the numbers on her forearm, tattooed there in a German concentration camp when she was nine months old. Those numbers framed her identity for the rest of her life. Whenever she introduced herself, she would say, “I am Cecile, but my first name was a number.”
Over the past few weeks, my attention has been riveted by the specter of thousands of children like Cecile: children who have traveled hundreds of miles on foot or hopping trains, alone, hoping to find safety and a future in the United States; or who have been brought here with their families, only to be ripped away from their mothers or fathers or aunts or grandparents, and taken and held in crowded wire pens, sleeping on concrete floors, eating food that is still partially frozen, denied soap and toothbrushes and the most basic requirements of human dignity.
Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are guaranteed quality food, medical care, spiritual succor, clothing, sanitation, and recreational activities; today, civilian children and adults are being held in conditions which meet none of those terms. To date, seven children have died (that we know of), and while the Vice President has assured Congress that it will be notified in a timely manner of any additional deaths, he has not promised to try to prevent future deaths from occurring.
The conditions in which these people are being held are not a political matter, but a moral and spiritual one. There is no politics compatible with our faith which allows us to condone these deaths, or the conditions which led to them and which may lead to more. This is not about Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Libertarians, immigration, borders, or any of that: this is about our fundamental moral commitments. We who have been baptized in the Episcopal Church, or who have chosen to join the church, are reminded of this each time we renew our baptismal covenant, when we are asked, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Always, we reply, “I will, with God’s help.”
Today, that response requires not only words, but action. And we are not powerless. The people who are being detained in these camps are eligible for bail. They are in the camps because their families do not have sufficient funds to help them. That’s where we can come in. A group of clergy from ECCT have formed a ministry network called "Let My People Go" in order to call attention to this issue and to raise funds for bail payments, to be administered through RAICES, a well-respected immigration organization. This action is completely legal; we are working within the established structures to try to mitigate the immediate suffering of these our brothers and sisters in Christ, and also to raise awareness so that these inhumane policies can be revoked. We are calling on parishes across ECCT to take up a collection for this work on August 11, 2019 or to find other ways to raise funds for this purpose.*
My former parishioner Cecile was not in that camp because she was a Jew. She was in there because her father and grandfather were pastors in the Confessing Church, that portion of German Protestantism which refused to divide Christians into “real Christians” (ie, from the dominant culture) and everyone else, whose baptisms the state church declared to be “less valid.” We know, as they did, that every human being is a living image of God. I hope that we, like they, will find the courage and self-giving love to give that commitment flesh.
Deborah Meister with Ranjit K. Mathews
*You may want to donate directly to RAICES, however, please let us know so we can track the impact of ECCT.