Ecumenical Advocacy Days: A World Uprooted

By The Rev. Mary M. Finklea, Convener of the Synod’s Ecumenical Network

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 1
“A World Uprooted”

Over 700 people of faith, including Lutherans, gathered in Washington DC for Ecumenical Advocacy Days this spring. This year’s theme was “A World Uprooted: Responding to Migrants, Refugees, and Displaced People.” Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Mennonite, Brethren, Presbyterians, UCC, Methodists, Disciples of Christ, and many more assembled together to learn about and to learn from our brothers and sisters displaced from their homes. War, violence, and persecution have uprooted over 65 million people according to 2016 numbers. Many men, women, and children seek refuge moving within their national borders, but over 22 million sought safety across international borders. This is the highest number seen since UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) was founded in 1950 in the aftermath of the Second World War. The conflict in Syria produced the most refugees, followed by the violence in South Sudan. We believe God cares about these people and seek to respond through prayer and action.

This conference provides participants with tools to be effective Christian witnesses to justice, peace, and integrity of creation around issues of national and international importance. Workshop tracks include Africa, Asia-Pacific, Domestic US Eco-Justice, Global Economic Justice, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Peace and Global Security. Attending from the South Carolina Synod were Rev. Mary Finklea and Rev. Alejandro Mejia.

Are you interested in being a part of this important work? Contact the synod office to be connected to the Advocacy task force, and save the dates for next year’s EAD, April 5-8, 2019.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2
“We confess to you, O Lord…”

Our very own Rev. Alejandro Mejia led over 700 worshippers at Ecumenical Advocacy Days in a time of confession. This conference which met recently in Washington DC is a time of both worship and action. Corporate confession allows us the opportunity to name sins, either of commission or omission, before our merciful God. This year’s theme was “A World Uprooted: Responding to Migrants, Refugees, and Displaced People.”

Our confession reflected on the ways in which we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves, and called us to repentance. In ways big and small, we have sometimes contributed to the heartache of our neighbors in Christ. Migrants, refugees, and other displaced people have all had their lives negatively impacted by corruption, climate change, and violent conflict. As people of faith, we want to respond to aid our hurting sisters and brothers. Educating ourselves on what is happening around the world and right near our homes is a good first step. Engage in civil discourse and talk with your neighbor how your faith in Jesus Christ impacts your concern for displaced peoples.

Attending from the South Carolina Synod were Rev. Mary Finklea and Rev. Alejandro Mejia. Are you interested in learning more about what it means to be an advocate by speaking up for others? Contact the synod office to be connected to the Advocacy task force, and save the dates for next year’s EAD, April 5-8, 2019.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 3
“AMMPARO”

AMMPARO is a Portuguese and Spanish word which means refuge, shelter, or protection. It is also an acronym, meaning: Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities. In 2016 the ELCA Church Council passed the AMMPARO strategy as a commitment to strengthen our accompaniment of migrant children and families in the US, in-transit and in their countries of origin.

Recently at a conference called Ecumenical Advocacy Days, Rev. Mary Finklea and Rev. Alejandro Mejia learned more about this vital work. Along with ministries in the US, our church supports projects led by churches and partner organizations that serve vulnerable children and families in the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Through these relationships, we bear witness to the conditions that affect far too many communities and we work together with our partners and companion churches to find solutions that will acknowledge the humanity in all of God’s children.

Our companion synod relationships are more than just exchanging pastors and spring break mission trips; they are a sign of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. We are church together. Being good neighbors and one family in Christ, we care about what our siblings are going through. Migration is a symptom of deeper economic and social issues. Central American children and families flee their communities every day due to violence, economic hardship or environmental disasters. US policies and assistance should help address the issues that force people to leave their communities. We advocate for US policies that provide safe, sufficient, and sustainable livelihoods to our Central American Neighbors.

Are you interested in learning more about AMMPARO? Check out ELCA.org/AMMPARO. Contact the synod office to be connected to the Advocacy task force, and save the dates for next year’s EAD, April 5-8, 2019.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 4
“LIRS”

For almost 80 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has been a champion for refugees and migrants from around the globe. This spring, Rev. Alejandro Mejia and Rev. Mary Finklea traveled to Washington, DC to join other people of faith in hearing about the global crisis of uprooted people. Ecumenical Advocacy Days is an annual event that brings together Christians of many different denominations for education and inspiration around a specific topic. Workshops, plenary sessions, worship, and skills training provide hands-on experiences that will inform our work visiting the Capital and our efforts back home in South Carolina.

Many American Lutherans have deep roots as immigrants and therefore possess a passionate commitment to welcoming newcomers. “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” recalls Deuteronomy 26:5 and Exodus 23:9 reminds us “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in the United States. Countless volunteers and congregations have been a part of this momentous work.

Are you interested in learning more about Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service? Check out lirs.org. Contact the synod office to be connected to the Advocacy task force, and save the dates for next year’s EAD, April 5-8, 2019.

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