By: Manon Lane
Christians have a Biblically-mandated duty to welcome immigrants, a speaker and author told students and faculty on Thursday at a luncheon to discuss immigration reform.
Author Matthew Soerens spoke to students and faculty at a luncheon sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table, and the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice.
“As a university, we ask ourselves, “How can we be a good neighbor?” said James Casler, director of the Center for Social Justice.
A group of more than 50 people representing Trevecca’s staff and administration, alumni, and neighboring churches and schools, listened while Soerens spoke on the political debate that is facing our nation.
Soerens is the U.S. church training specialist for World Relief, and co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, & Truth in the Immigration Debate, a book that shares immigrant’s stories as it explains how they are lost in a system that offers little hope of their becoming legal U.S. citizens. This book offers facts, debunks common misconceptions, and suggests that Christians need to live the word of the Bible and be hospitable towards all fellow man, invited or not.
Throughout his discussion, Soerens quoted scripture.
“I think as Christians, we have to concern ourselves with this topic, because it’s more than a topic, it’s about people. It’s about people that God loves. God loves all people, but He very specifically loves immigrants-Deuteronomy 10 [verses 18 and 19],” said Soerens.
While standing in front of a slide show entitled, “Our dysfunctional immigration system is a trafficker’s best friend,” Soerens explained that there are around 17,500 victims of human trafficking a year, 95 percent of the labor trafficking victims are immigrants, and a majority of them have no legal status.
Soerens referred to this issue as “modern day slavery.”
He explained the injustice behind many of the immigration laws that America currently upholds, stating that the US detains about 400,000 immigrants a year. While there are those that need to be detained due to criminal conviction, about half of them have never been convicted of “any crime, to say nothing of a violent crime,” and are just awaiting deportation hearings.
He shared that many undocumented immigrants fall into a catch-22, or a gray area.
Raydhira Abreu, Founder and Executive Director of La Familia-Nashville (a resource center), and Trevecca alum, ministers to the Hispanic community and helps those that are trying to make Nashville their home. She came to the US when she was 17- years-old, and then chose to continue her schooling at Trevecca because she was seeking answers about God.
“I want to help people. That is my passion, even if no one is watching,” said Abreu as she addressed the audience. “I am so happy that Mr. Matthew [Soerens] is here today to speak to us about immigration.”
As Soerens spoke, there were quite a few “Amen’s,” from the listeners.
”I really appreciate that he is really telling the truth. We are so afraid of talking about the immigration issues,” said Abreu afterward. “I heard all the time in the church, ‘love your neighbor.’ We are equal, we need to love each other, and help each other, not discriminate. We are all a creation of God, and we should love each other, as God loves us.”
Soerens also gave a grammar lesson, suggesting that society has misused the term “hospitality.”
”Hospitality in Greek is Philoxenia. It means ‘the love of strangers,’ which means loving your friends, while a very nice thing to do, doesn’t meet the standard,” said Soerens.