As a community of faith, we take seriously the reality of where God has placed us on this earth, and the responsibility that comes with it. The southern border of our nation is also the southern border of our ministry area. We embrace the Gospel summons to love our neighbor as ourselves and to treat the sojourner with compassion; therefore, the scope of our border ministry with immigrants is comprehensive.
The United Methodist Church, with a network of faith communities, together known as the Southern Arizona Border Care Network, meets regularly with partners to coordinate our work, share needs, and notice trends.
The Church has been the face of hospitality to guests at The Inn and Inn2America. United Methodists have provided clothing, food, volunteer hours, loving care, and dignity to those who are traveling among us. Asylum-seekers want a home for their family where they can live without danger, hunger, or threat. As families begin their process of pursuing asylum, we are honored to spend time with them as they pause before journeying to their families in the United States who are awaiting their arrival.
An example of what the Church is able to do was shown on Palm Sunday. Gretchen Lopez, The Inn Site Coordinator, received a call that families were dropped off at the bus depot. Several volunteers arrived immediately to provide care. It was a warm day, and they were thirsty and standing in the sun. In the span of just a few hours, around 200 children and families were left in the hot sun. We began calling United Methodist Churches, and they responded by opening up their facilities, including the Wesley Foundation on the U of A campus. City buses arrived to transport the people, and we had all of them off the streets and in churches before dinner time. It was a visible example of the way the Church moves when the people have a need. The United Methodist Church in Tucson embodied the love of God in Christ through action and immediate care.
Dignity and hospitality are the signs of the church. Championing human dignity through responsive compassionate humanization is one that is shared between The United Methodist Church in Tucson and others doing work with asylum seekers. The national climate regarding immigration, the continued dehumanization through the warehousing of people in detention centers along the southern border, and the stripping away of human dignity that happens when someone is placed in a cage, make the current consideration of using an active juvenile detention center as the face of Christian hospitality in Tucson the least appealing option to members of The United Methodist Churches of Tucson, Arizona.
Ministries like The Inn and Inn2America were modeled after the hospitality of ecumenical partners like the Catholic and Presbyterian Church and have become an integral part of the community response to the increased number of Asylum Seekers passing through Tucson. As United Methodist’s we cannot allow the signs of the church, dignity and hospitality, to be set aside in favor of detention and dehumanization.
Especially because there is a very real possibility that the work of ministries like The Inn will be disrupted as families are taken to be housed at the Pima County Juvenile Justice Complex, rather than in churches. We ask that United Methodist’s resist this option and call on our ecumenical partners and community leaders to find another way. You can express concern about this decision by signing this petition http://chng.it/7ChGrbsy.
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Find out more at https://dscumc.org/immigration-response
The Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church consists of approximately 130 churches and ministries in Arizona, southern Nevada, and the southern tip of California, where God calls us to be a courageous church loving like Jesus, acting for justice, and united in hope.