Washington (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance invites its members to exercise continuing concern for the status and treatment of immigrants worldwide. This is not surprising, considering the organization's long history of committed action of settling immigrants in their new countries
After the Second World War, the BWA encouraged the United States government to adjust immigration quotas to allow displaced persons from Europe to come into the country. In the face of opposition from American anti-immigrant groups, who feared that the new immigrants would become a "public charge," the BWA helped to settle more than 5,700 displaced Europeans in the US and 1,700 in Canada between 1949 and 1953. Similar assistance was given to Cuban and Angolan refugees in the 1960s, with the BWA helping nearly 500 Cubans settle in the US by 1962.
The undiminished BWA concern for the welfare of immigrants was given expression in a 2008 resolution, bemoaning the "array of cultural, linguistic and economic burdens" faced by immigrants whose presence sometimes "generates political situations of great sensitivity, fear and misunderstanding in host and home countries alike."
Because of the parlous state of millions of immigrants around the world, the BWA has urged nations to develop transparent and equitable systems of migration that treat applicants with dignity; to administer laws and regulations with justice and fairness to citizens and immigrants alike; and to renounce xenophobia and the misuse of immigration for political repression and division.
The BWA encourages its member bodies to instill an ethic of love that reaches across ethnic, gender and political boundaries; to act as advocates for migrants; to develop ministries of reconciliation and integration; and to freely share resources with those in need.
BWA concern for immigrants is based on the understanding that human beings are "fellow sojourners in this world" and the conviction that the way we treat the immigrant in our midst is a sign of the authenticity of our faith. In its 2008 resolution, the BWA affirms a "scriptural mandate to live in love and justice with refugees and immigrants."
Baptist pastor and theologian, Delroy Reid-Salmon, in Home Away From Home (2008), says many immigrants seek "a community of faith to which they could belong as members." Churches, Reid-Salmon explains, are sometimes the only social organization in which immigrants can become easily assimilated.
This provides a unique opportunity that churches should cherish.
As Baptists, we should remain true to our historical roots, both as immigrants - many Baptists migrated to places where they could practice their faith in freedom - and as hosts who are ready to welcome others.