by Lonnie Rose
Our March 9th program was given by Diane Haines from Mayflower UCC. Diane is on the Immigration Team of the Minnesota Conference and has been making immersion and learning trips to Guatemala, Mexico and along the US/Mexico border for decades. She gave the group a crash course in the differences between immigrant welcoming, sanctuary and sanctuary supporting churches. Immigrant welcoming churches are as simple as the title suggests. They are openly supportive of immigrants, documented or undocumented. Many UCC churches have this designation and some along our Mexican border are very active and regularly patrol the desert to save folks with much needed food and water. A sanctuary church is a church that is willing to be the last line of defense between undocumented folks and deportation. It is a very involved commitment that protects individuals and families about to be deported until they can get their day in court. The people are kept in sanctuary within the church where ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) historically has been unwilling to go because churches are considered sensitive areas. Many of these churches are in sanctuary cities and states that have the support of local law enforcement. The act of keeping these folks in sanctuary is actually illegal and there are questions around how this process will be handled in our current political environment. Sanctuary supporting churches help with any of the needs of individuals/families and the sanctuary churches. All of the tasks involved with Parkway’s Families Moving Forward ministry are a good example of the needs of this kind of undertaking. Robbinsdale UCC is a sanctuary church.
Our March 23rd program was given by Jennifer Jaimez, the Pastor of St. Mark’s UCC in Bloomington. Jennifer was part of a delegation of Ministers and lay people from the Minnesota Conference that made a trip to Palestine and Israel this past January. Their trip was twofold. The primary intent of the trip was to understand the need for social justice reforms in that region. Many of us are used to hearing on a regular basis about the frequent news that flows from the area but we tend to be given a very one sided version of events in the West and especially the US. We have for decades supported Israel as a nation state politically, militarily and financially. We hear about the Israeli’s having to defend themselves against Palestinian uprisings, individual terrorist events and car bombings. We hear about Israel’s defense against the other Arab countries in the region. What we don’t hear as much about is that there are approximately 5.8 million Israelis and 5.3 million Palestinians living in an area about the size of New Jersey. Israelis have continued to build settlements into the occupied Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza strip. We don’t hear that the Palestinians have now been pushed into areas less than 1/10 that of the Israelis. (Remember that there populations are nearly equal.) The Palestinians are not allowed to travel freely if at all outside of the occupied areas. Water and electricity are controlled by the Israeli Government. The Palestinians only get 30% of the water causing shortages regularly. Jennifer said that the experience was very eye opening. The second part of the group’s trip was to tour all of the religious history that is in the region. Not just for Christians but for Jews and Muslims as well. Many of the sites are as tourist oriented as they are historical but Jennifer said that many of them were deeply emotional for the group. One of her highlights was that she was able to float in the Dead Sea, walk into the Jordan River, be on the Mediterranean and wade into the Sea of Galilee. Jennifer’s presentation was full of awesome pictures and very informative.