Salvadoran bishop asks Christians in the US to welcome refugees and migrants

Pabla, 19 (fourth from the left), experienced as a child how her father left for the US and stayed there 4 years with close to no contact to his family. When he returned, he was a stranger to her. Now her oldest brother has gone to the US and was kidnapped on the way. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner

Call for “Love and solidarity”

(LWI) The bishop of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church has urged the people of the United States not to “permit your government to commit a sin against Human Rights” by restricting immigration and taking action against immigrants.

Bishop Medardo Ernest Gomez Soto, in a pastoral letter titled “A Call for Love and Solidarity,” citing refugees fleeing oppression and unrest in Central America and elsewhere, said “in 2017 there is nervousness, fear and anxiety about the plans of the new (U.S.) government with a new president who has declared himself anti-immigrant.” Even though the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has not acted on all things spoken of during his election campaign, there is “panic” among those who imagine what things would be like if more anti-immigrant plans were put in place.

God’s true love and solidarity can open doors to just governments, dictate fair laws and make the migrant feel welcome, productive and give the migrant a chance to live without shame, anguish or despair.
Bishop Medardo Gomez Soto, Lutheran Church of El Salvador

“Enjoy the blessing that can be found here”

“The United States is currently a powerful country, with great success and prosperity,” Bishop Gomez wrote, “making it an attractive place to live. The United States has taken in citizens from all over the world,” he said, and is “populated by migrants who have come to love the United States, feeling a sense of belonging, loving the land of opportunities and wanting their families to enjoy the blessing that can be found there.”

People in Central America see their northern neighbor as a “big, important and developed country, a beautiful and nice place to live,” the bishop said.

But, he added, “Unfortunately those who migrate are disappointed when they are mistreated, humiliated, exploited and then deported.”

Violence and civil unrest in Central America, the bishop said, bring people to take terrible risks in immigrating to the United States. Those who make it, he said, live with the fear that “they could be deported at any moment.”

Bishop Gomez Soto’s letter said “thinking about Christian values, the only response is love and solidarity, the same fundamental expression when we say ‘the solution is Christ alone.’”

“God’s true love and solidarity can open doors to just governments, dictate fair laws and make the migrant feel welcome, productive and give the migrant a chance to live without shame, anguish or despair.”

“Pick up the cry of this region”

“Therefore, as bishop of my people and as a pastor from suffering Central America, I pick up the cry of this region to make this call for prayer and action,” Gomez Soto wrote, urging Americans to defend human rights by “using public pressure and the just laws of the United States, a free and democratic country.”

“Brothers and sisters, we need you,” the bishop wrote. “Help our region of Latin America.” The bishop said Christians should “cultivate the values of (God’s) kingdom and avoid human suffering.” He praised the AMMPARO effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a program to help young refugees who reach the United States. This program, he said, is “inspired by God’s love” and accompanies young refugees as “pastoral angels” in an attempt to “alleviate their suffering and to strengthen hope.”

“No one is a stranger in the world and no one is illegal,” said the bishop’s letter. “God, the creator of the universe has privileged man and women, among all creatures, to be responsible stewards, administrators and ecologists in caring for creation.”

Bishop Medardo Gomez leads about 20,000 Lutherans in El Salvador and has long been a leader in seeking an end to civil unrest in that country and help for refugees and immigrants. The Salvadoran Lutheran Church, a member of The Lutheran World Federation, is also a member of the Latin American Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.