“You know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 23:9
The United Nations calculates that at the start of 2020, a record 70.8 million people were in a state of imposed migration, forcibly displaced from their countries of origin. An astounding 37,000 persons per day flee their homes around the globe, due to armed conflict or persecution.
This massive stream of humanity flows daily around the globe in mixed movements of men, women, and children traveling together, sometimes as family groups, sometimes solo, and always for a variety of reasons. Some people are seeking legal protection through asylum in another country, some are refugees fleeing intolerably harsh conditions, others are stateless persons, or victims of trafficking, and even unaccompanied or separated children. Regardless of their individual circumstances, these human beings in migration—the people that the author of Exodus described as “aliens”—are propelled by fear, desperation, and hope. And it is in this fear, desperation, and hope that some of these displaced persons come to us, where we dwell in relative comfort and peace.
Migration is where the global meets the local. We are not immune from the poverty and violence that drives people to seek safety and a new beginning. We are the antidote. Indeed, for some, we are the embodiment of their hope for the future.
In our country, our communities, and our Church, whether we are aware of it or not, we engage daily with people all around us whose stories are part of this global phenomenon: the largest forced migration since World War II. In the U.S. national conversation, in our politics and policy, in our own families, we ask: How did we get here? How should we respond? How do those who migrate experience our country’s immigration system? What does hospitality look like in these extreme circumstances? To what are we being called – as individuals and as a people of faith and shared humanity?
The Episcopal Church has assisted migrants for more than a century, establishing Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) to help refugees resettle in American communities. In partnership with a network of affiliated agencies, dioceses, churches, and volunteers, EMM is now one of only nine national agencies through which all refugees enter the United States.
EMM also hosts Partners in Welcome, an online learning community and ministry network for Episcopalians, congregations, dioceses, and other neighbors to come together to learn, share best practices, and discern how God is calling them to join in the work of welcome. Thanks to the efforts of a number of Partners in Welcome members, EMM recently released Supporting Asylum Seekers: A Toolkit for Congregations. The toolkit provides frameworks through which to understand and discern ministry, as well as the “nuts & bolts” practical steps to the work of hosting and supporting an asylum seeker as they go through the legal process.
All are welcome to join Partners in Welcome, request a free copy of the Supporting Asylum Seekers toolkit, and to connect with EMM in 2020 for conversation, learning, ministry discernment, and more. Allison Duvall, EMM’s Manager for Church Relations & Engagement, may be reached at [email protected] or (212) 716-6027.
This blog post was written by Archdeacon Roger Saterstrom, who serves outreach ministries at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, the Diocese of Tennessee. Roger is a great friend and supporter of Episcopal Migration Ministries. Locally, he and his wife Anna live into the Gospel call to welcome and aid the sojourner by greeting asylum seekers who have been transiting through the Nashville Greyhound bus station for the past several months. Contact: [email protected].