A recent showing of the documentary “Gospel Without Borders” at Denver’s Iliff School of Theology energized participants to “do more” through practical steps, which can be adopted by any congregation that wants to bring discussion about immigration to the forefront in their communities.
“It’s important to open up the conversation about immigration in our congregations,” said Miguel De La Torre, professor of social ethics at Iliff, after the screening on Oct. 12. “By starting the conversation and in working on the feelings that arise as a result, churches can have significant impact.”
De La Torre is featured in the documentary, as he traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border and walked the migrant trails, leaving food and water for migrants in distress.
“Gospel Without Borders” was produced by EthicsDaily.com and funded primarily by the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas.
The documentary separates myth from fact, examines what the Bible says about treatment of the “stranger,” shows the experiences of documented and undocumented immigrants, and provides handles for Christians to advance the common good.
It highlights stories in five states – Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama and Iowa – and is available in two versions (long and short) on a single DVD.
More than 5,000 copies of the documentary have already been distributed since its release in September, with public screenings occurring in cities across the country, including Little Rock, Ark., Raleigh, N.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Lakeland, Fla.
Other screenings are already scheduled in Georgetown, Ky., Richmond, Va., and Oklahoma City, Okla.
After the screening at Iliff, De La Torre encouraged the crowd to ask questions of the panelists. Those questions led to suggestions from the group on practical ways to change attitudes, beliefs and opinions about immigration.
Simple suggestions for any congregation included:
- Be bold by starting the conversation. Don’t be afraid to be the first in your area to host a conversation about immigration.
- Start with storytelling. By sharing the personal stories of immigrants and participants, connections are made. Through this simple act of dialogue, an understanding of “hearts and minds” can begin.
- Be prepared to educate. Be prepared to deal with strong feelings around the immigration debate. Use “Gospel Without Borders” to help inform and educate around the issue. Know your local resources. Encourage discussions and conversations with informed panelists.
- Travel to the border. Take a group to the border to experience firsthand the immigrant experience and the injustices present. Work with border groups to distribute water, food and housing.
- Participate in the Clergy Immigration Network. Volunteer your time to attend court sessions for immigrants and their families. By your presence, both immigrants and the court system will feel and see your support.
- Work to change laws. Collaborate with other community groups to support educational benefits for immigrants and more just laws for immigrant labor/employment.
- Model support. Teach English in your church or work with other community resources to make English classes available. Encourage your congregation to learn Spanish.
Visit GospelWithoutBorders.net for more information.
Greta Gloven is vice president of marketing communications and strategic partnerships for Iliff School of Theology.