Why Do We Help?
Updated: Nov 1
By Steve Herbold
Why do we help and welcome immigrants/refugees?
Scripture says in Matthew 25:42-46 that when we welcome all types of strangers we are welcoming Christ himself.
Leviticus 19 reads: The stranger who resides with you shall be as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
In Hebrews it says to remember to welcome strangers in your home for it could actually be an angel.
Our church is a voting member of the Immigrant Dignity Coalition (IDC) headed by Samantha Searls of Ignite Peace. Their purpose is to inform, connect, and mobilize our local community to defend and protect the dignity of immigrants and refugees by working in partnership with one another.
Our Peace & Justice Committee (PJOS) has been active with IDC since its inception and I currently am on their steering committee. We also give some of our budgeted money to several local organizations committed to helping immigrants:
Heartfelt Tidbits who aids refugees and recent immigrants in getting on their feet
Immigrant and Refugee Law Center who offers legal assistance to local immigrant and refugee families
Catholic Charities who work to provide housing and assistance to new arrivals
3 R for Immigrants who helps with bail and emergency support for immigrants
Willows Project which ministers a fund used to provide temporary housing to immigrants in dire need
We were alerted by Catholic Charities of a family from Afghanistan seeking refuge when the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan in 2021, and we transformed our office space at The Peace House to an apartment for this couple (who just had their first baby!). We have also periodically been a support congregation for the Cincinnati Sanctuary Coalition who has housed both a Congolese and Ghanian family.
Philosophically we might ask should we just aid refugees fleeing from persecution or should we help all refugees even those seeking a better life? Could some families fit both categories? Many factions work against accepting immigrants saying all should enter legally and follow the law. But the legal path is very complicated and as one recent immigrant said, “The system is set up so they really don’t want you to win.” She also said that our immigration process says a lot about America, which makes the system extremely difficult for people to navigate. The idea that America being a welcoming place is belied by the process that is rigged to keep people out.
In Lin Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit “Hamilton” Lafayette and Hamilton exclaim, “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Immigrants infuse fresh ideas, foods, languages, and customs into our existing social fabric. I recently saw “Sanctuary City'' at the Playhouse in the Park. In it the female character receives documentation while her friend remains undocumented. Their relationship spans years and his undocumented status is pivotal. One striking theme is the constant vigilance of the one character as he can’t violate any law like jaywalking or complain about getting cheated on his paycheck. Even though he is a good student he can’t apply for financial aid for college. He has to constantly live in the shadows. His life is a constant stream of disappointment and struggle which typifies the situation of so many immigrants.
Worldwide, the resistance to immigrants is profound. It is not just an American chant to block newcomers at the border. But the large number of warring conflicts, the many repressive regimes, and the violent uncontrolled rebel groups lead to a very large exodus of refugees. Recently, Cincinnati has seen a large number of refugees from Mauritania and Venezuela. The Boone County Jail in Kentucky houses hundreds of asylum seekers mostly from Latin America. They languish there indefinitely as the hearing process is so backed up. My guess is that most will eventually be denied entry and be deported. We have been attempting with Ignite Peace to set up a ministry program.
So, I’m painting a rather dark picture of the state of immigration. As mentioned, CMF supports and participates with organizations that are on the front lines aiding immigrants and refugees. But many needs go unmet as the number of those needing help exceeds the number of agencies and people able to help. As CMF, with pastor Brian’s leadership, strives to work for building the beloved community and creating heaven on earth, what solution could we work for to alleviate the immigration problem? If all the situations causing massive numbers of people fleeing could be changed: World peace. Unjust leadership eliminated. Unfair economic conditions rectified. Arming of rebel groups stopped. Religious persecution voided. But, of course, our world is far from seeing these changes happen. Meanwhile, Christians must step up to help strangers in our midst. If you’re interested in knowing more about our work, please send an email to email@example.com
Steve Herbold at an event for The Poor People’s Campaign