Today’s guest blogger is David Fraccaro, an ordained United Church of Christ Minister who works at the Interfaith Youth Core as coordinator of the “Stranger to Neighbor” initiative which seeks to build greater interfaith collaboration and friendship between diverse communities of faith and their immigrant/refugee neighbors.
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño speak in St. Louis about her experience as a faith leader in Arizona. She spoke in front of the Missouri state courthouse, where in 1857 the infamous Dredd Scott case ruled that neither slaves, nor any other person of African ancestry could claim U.S. citizenship or any of the rights therein. She noted how the new immigration law, SB 1070 “Support Our Law Enforcement & Safe Neighborhood Act” similarly challenges the freedom and humanity of recent immigrants in Arizona, and the rest of America.
She told the story of seven young people who gathered outside of the Arizona state courthouse a week before the Governor of Arizona made her decision on the bill. She said the youth decided that one of the biggest contributions they could make outside the courthouse was to pray, and to ask other people to join them in a peaceful vigil. These young people deeply believed in the America of freedom and equal rights for all people. They loved what America had brought to their lives, and felt proud about the contributions they were making in return. Over the next week, seven young people had grown into fifteen hundred.
Bishop Carcaño said that one of the most difficult parts of the day the bill was signed was seeing the idealism in these young people die, as many of them feared they would now be forced further into the shadows of American society. Bishop Carcaño, along with a local imam and rabbi from St.Louis, then offered a prayer for the affected communities across America, and for the broken spirit of a new generation of immigrants.
While the Bishop was praying several young men on the way to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game began laughing, and yelling, “deport em” as they passed by, blind to how their own bigotry affected those around them, or how this might have offended many of the immigrant ballplayers they were about to cheer on. I thought about crossing the street to talk to them, to ask them if they had any immigrant friends, to tell me about their own immigrant ancestry, and to ask them how their faith influences their thoughts and actions on this issue. I doubt anyone has asked them those questions before.
As a person of faith, I believe in the vision of one human family. I believe that we are all created in the image of God, and when one part of that image is tarnished, we are all tarnished. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently wrote from a jail cell in Birmingham, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Through my work with the Interfaith Youth Core, I have had the opportunity to ask these questions, and listen to the moving answers of young people of many heritages and faiths. Together they are discovering their own networks of mutuality, and how their shared religious value of welcoming the immigrant stranger not only enriches their own lives, but builds a stronger, healthier America.
They understand how what happens in Arizona affects us all.