Representatives from various United Methodist agencies met Sept. 26-27 in Washington, D.C., to share information about what is being done regarding the immigration crisis in Europe and in the United States.
The Immigration Task Force, led by Bishop Minerva Carcaño, gathered representatives from seven United Methodist general church groups: Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Women, United Methodist Communications, MARCHA (Hispanic Caucus) and Middle Eastern Caucus.
Each organization presented a report about what they are doing on different aspects of the migration problem in Europe and the United States.
Carcaño, episcopal leader of the California-Pacific Conference, shared a message from Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Germany Area, reporting that the European Methodist Council created a European working group of Methodists who seek to respond to the needs of refugees and migrants. In addition, the Germany Conference’s mission board established a fund offering monetary support to congregations providing aid to refugees.
“All the facts in the Middle East and in Africa prove that even more people will come,” Wenner said. “We have to prepare ourselves for a new reality.”
The Rev. Jorge Luiz Domingues, an executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said the board is encouraging The United Methodist Church to participate in Mediterranean Hope, a project of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI) financed with funds from Waldensian and Methodist Churches.
“We know that the task is not only to meet the basic needs of the immigrants who come, but to also minister in all aspects of their lives such as education, pastoral care, emotional support and housing,” Domingues said.
Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, leader of the episcopal area of Eastern Congo, was also at the meeting and recalled that the immigration crisis in Europe is not new.
"Nations like Burundi, for example, have seen its population decimated." The bishop added that many villages are running out of people. “Young men are the work force and they are migrating. This is deepening poverty in this country and other countries in Africa.”
The bishop noted the importance of The United Methodist Church joining the effort to improve local conditions to reduce immigration. "Education and trainings for work can be strategies to reduce the need for young people to migrate," he said.
The task force is prepared to continue working on two key areas. At the Asia-Africa-Europe migratory corridor, it will work with churches and European organizations to expand relief and the development of ministries for spiritual and social care for migrants.
On the Central America-Mexico-United States migratory corridor, the task force will monitor the situation of children and young immigrants in the U.S. territory, and expand programs and cooperation with churches, governments and agencies in Latin America. It will also continue demanding comprehensive immigration reform, calling for the suspension of deportation and detention for immigration reasons. Finally, it prepared a petition on migration for the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
Vasquez is director of the Hispanic/Latino Communications, United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee and is a member of the Interagency Immigration Task Force.
News media contact: The Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, United Methodist Communications, [email protected], 615-742-5400.