Thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children currently await news of their fate from U.S. authorities, caught in the middle of what the White House has called an "urgent humanitarian situation." As President Barack Obama and other political leaders debate emergency funds, religious communities are reflecting on how to faithfully respond to this immigration crisis.
Churches and faith-based organizations are getting involved in the issue at several different levels, from meeting with politicians to turning their buildings into temporary shelters to simply offering prayers.
"As Christian leaders we have a Biblical and moral imperative to provide a pastoral and compassionate response even while we seek long-term solutions to the root causes of the crisis," explained a letter from a group of evangelical and Catholic leaders to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.
The letter requested permission for religious groups to offer humanitarian aid to the children, as they do during "natural disasters, prolonged famines or civil unrest."
Johnson also received a petition from a group of faith-based organizations whose work centers on immigration reform. The letter, which included signatures from 3,841 persons of faith, called upon Johnson, President Obama and Congress to "address the magnitude and urgency of the humanitarian crisis of migrant children."
Religion News Service reported that the petition's sponsors held a national teleconference on July 10 to discuss the need for Congress and the president to provide emergency funds. "We are asking President Obama, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to do the right thing by providing funding for the care and due process of these migrant children," said one speaker, United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano, to RNS.
Faith leaders in Texas had the opportunity to meet with the president face-to-face during his visit last week, gathering alongside local officials to discuss potential solutions. "Our focus is on the children," said one group member to The Christian Post.
Although politicians have yet to settle on an appropriate response, many religious communities are working to serve the children's immediate needs.
"Various faith groups and churches from across the religious spectrum are already offering robust services for the unaccompanied children, with everything from Baptist disaster relief services providing shelter in Texas to individual Catholic churches in California harboring kids until they can find a suitable place to house them," ThinkProgress reported.
World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, published a review of its various efforts, which include supporting the organizations offering shelter for the immigrant children. For Christians who are uncertain about how best to get involved, the organizations suggests prayer as a valuable starting point. World Vision's published prayers include a request for God to keep the unaccompanied children safe and to move politicians into action.
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