Faith Matters: Who we are as each other’s brother and sister is at great cost to our personal and national souls
Published 5:33 pm, Saturday, February 17, 2018
The recent news of the upcoming deportation of Zhe Long Huang (Tony) and Xiang Jin Li (Kris) on Feb.16, the day before this column is due for publication has made me very sad and left wondering what is happening to the heart of our country. Tony and Kris entered the U.S. as illegal immigrants in 1999. Having received work permits, they have lived and worked here for 20 years, building a business, paying taxes and owning homes in the Farmington Valley. They have two children, Liam (5) and Andrew (15), born and raised knowing only this country with its language and way of life as their homeland. Neither Tony nor Kris have any record of criminality in their country of origin or here, in the USA. I pray that their appeal for a stay of deportation and a re-examination of their case that they might work toward obtaining citizenship is granted. I pray for them and I pray for an end to deportations that break families apart, disrupt neighborhoods, and engender fear and anger. I pray we find a way to move toward a sense of hope, safety, well-being and healing for all concerned. It is one thing to seek ways to ensure the safety and well-being of our borders and citizenry and another thing to do harm in the name of insuring the principle of what it means to be safe is upheld.
You see, for me, this is a matter of faith. I’ve been brought up on the stories of my wandering Hebrew and Christian ancestors, seeking freedom from slavery, from war and pestilence, hunger and illness. I was raised on the stories of those who were sent by God on great journeys to raise families and help establish societies based on hospitality and laws of freedom and well-being with regard for the “other”, whomever he or she might be. I’ve also been raised on stories of God’s preference for diversity: mountains and valleys, seas and dry lands, multiple kinds of trees, flowers, plants and fruits along with animals, creatures and humankind of colors, ages, shapes and sizes perhaps more than we can ever name, all sharing this same earth together. The Great commandment is the law of love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. No exceptions are listed! This love between one’s self and neighbor is a compassionate love, seeking each other’s well-being. It remembers to be merciful. It remembers to want the best for one another.
Many of us come from a lineage of immigration. Many of us come from a lineage connected to the first people of this land. Many of us arrived in this country at the hands of others, and so with a lineage connecting to the slave or perhaps trafficking trade. That is how this country of ours came to be. We have a heritage of joyous adventure and we have a heritage stained with sin. Whose land was it? Is it? How do we share ownership and power? We learned to war with one another. We learned to harm one another, even as we also learned to make friends and make peace. We learned to enslave one another, and to bring people of other lands here to do slave work and migrant work for us. And we learned how to mature and enact laws to help us remember how to become better people then we’d been in terrifyingly sad days of forgetting our common humanity.
In this moment of deportation decisions regarding the Huang families and multiple others, decisions that seem to have no basis in criminality and security issues and are clearly harmful to precious family units, we seem once again in danger of forgetting our common humanity. This is indeed a faith matter for such forgetfulness and inconsideration of who we are as each other’s brother and sister is at great cost to our personal and national souls.
The Rev. Barbara T. Cheney, missional priest St. James Episcopal Church New Haven.