Immigration – Thinking about the Topic in Guatemala
Jul 26, 2012 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 0 Comments
I returned this last Sunday night from Guatemala. I had been there three weeks, most of that time teaching at the seminary where I had taught for many years before coming to Denver. I am still adjunct there and return most years to teach an intensive course in the summers.
While I was there I was asked to speak twice on the topic of immigration, once to a broad audience of about 80 and then at a breakfast of a smaller group that meets monthly to discuss issues related to theological matters from the view of different social sciences. That group was made up of around 20. The audiences were made up mostly of Guatemalans, but the seminary is international, so there were also individuals from other countries such as Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Chile.
I presented a summary of the biblical material related to immigration, as well as mentioning several of the topics of debate and discussion in the United States.
Several of the questions and comments that were made were interesting:
- Many countries south of the border have a different and complex experience with immigration. They are sending countries, but they also receive their own fair share of immigrants (legal and undocumented) – both those who are in transit to the north or to Europe and stay for a while, as well as others who come from poorer countries to find work and stay. In other words, there are intertwining issues of immigration and emigration.
- In sending countries there are unique pastoral and theological challenges: What to do with family (spouses, children, young people) left behind? How to pastorally engage those who feel they must go to the US or Europe in search of suitable jobs or a better life for themselves and their families? What of issues of faith and dependence as they collide with immediate, fundamental needs of food and housing?
- What are the pastoral challenges in dealing with the reentry of those who return, whether of their own volition or because of deportation? What to do about those who perish on the way and with those families that lose a loved one?
- There is an appreciation of the fact that migration is a global phenomenon that is substantially rooted in global economics and labor demands. Migration can only be slowed if there are jobs and suitable environments in the sending countries. These are sociopolitical and economic challenges for each country, but they also are pastoral and theological challenges to the churches: What is the role of Christians and the churches to make these countries a more human place? How to make believers aware of how God is interested in every dimension of human life and how Christian mission should impact these, too.
Immigration is truly a global issue! Perceptions and perspectives can be different from different parts of the world.