A Statement from the Bishops of Virginia: Respecting the Dignity of Asylum Seekers and Ending Family
"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"
Images of children ripped from the arms of their parents at the borders and of crying toddlers in detention centers have ripped our hearts wide open. From the depths of broken-hearted compassion we, along with Episcopalians across the nation, cry out for justice, respect and dignity for men, women and children who have fled life-threatening violence in their homelands and seek asylum in the United States. We, along with people on all sides of political divides, people from a wide variety of faiths and people who proclaim no faith at all, say no to the separation of families.
At noon on Sunday, July 8, we Bishops and some General Convention Deputies from the Diocese of Virginia will participate in a prayer service outside of the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. We will pray for an end to the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and for the loving, liberating, live-giving presence of Christ to be revealed, more fully than ever, within and among us. (The detention center is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by a private prison company and is about 40 miles from the Austin Convention Center where General Convention will be held.)
We do this because the Church can never afford to overlook our responsibility to be a witness to the Gospel in the midst of the ongoing debates in our culture, especially when they involve profoundly moral questions and values. People everywhere, even the unchurched, look to the Church for hope and guidance in times like these. We are called to give voice to that hope and guidance.
We take sides in this matter because Jesus himself took sides with vulnerable children. Jesus honored children and blessed them at a time when they were expected to be neither seen nor heard. In his name, we must open eyes and hearts to see these detained children and act in ways that will bring blessings upon them. By taking time during General Convention and going to pray outside of a detention center, we respond to the last question in our Baptismal Covenant with a resounding, "We will, with God's help."
Christians should respond to every opportunity to live our faith in words and action not only at home or at church, but especially in the public square. So we invite you to join us in prayer and other action for the sake of vulnerable children and families. Below this statement are links to information and resources that might help shape and inform your faithful response.
The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston
Bishop of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff
Bishop Suffragan of Virginia
The Rt. Rev. Robert Ihloff
Bishop Associate of Virginia