(Mennonite Church USA) — A group from the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) of Mennonite Church USA will spend two days learning about immigration initiatives and organizations in Tucson, Arizona, Oct. 19-20. The CLC is made up of conference and constituent group leaders who serve as denominational elders for MC USA. Following their regular meetings, a group of around 20 CLC members will visit and learn from organizations that serve migrants in the United States-Mexico border state.
Sue Park-Hur, denominational minister for Transformative Peacemaking, and Kate Wentland, the project director for Full Circle, a peace and justice ministry of MC USA’s Pacific Southwest Conference, will lead the group. They organized this visit in response to the Churchwide Statement on the Abuse of Child Migrants, passed by the MC USA Delegate Assembly at the 2019 MC USA churchwide convention. The statement encourages congregations to visit the borderlands “to learn and witness to the conditions of migrants.”
Wentland visited Tucson in June 2019 to learn about immigration initiatives, and she felt compelled to share what she learned with the broader church. During her visit, she attended an interfaith prayer service in response to felony charges raised against Scott Warren for delivering food and water to migrants in the desert. She also learned about Operation Streamline, a mass sentencing initiative of the government that began in 2005 for people illegally crossing the border. She witnessed 71 people criminally prosecuted in one hour, she said.
“I came away from this trip thinking about how much is happening there,” said Wentland. “The pastors in Tucson said the best thing we could do would be to spread the word.”
The West Coast office of Mennonite Central Committee U.S., a Mennonite global, non-profit relief organization that is independent of MC USA, helped set up the visit. The group will visit MCC partner organizations that provide housing and assistance for migrants, including Casa Alitas, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project and Casa Mariposa Detention Visitation Program.
“My goal is to create more awareness of what’s going on at the border, how our churches are engaged, and how to create partnerships,” said Wentland, “I hope this will encourage people to figure out what’s going on in their own communities because there are detention centers across the country.”
“It is my hope to take this opportunity with our church elders to see what is happening on the ground, meet people who are most impacted — especially migrant children — and encourage MC USA churches and organizations who are responding to the needs of their communities,” said Park-Hur. “I hope we can recognize the complexities, the trauma and resilience of everyone impacted by our country’s immigration policies and grow in compassion for all of God’s people.”
For more information on MC USA’s peace and justice initiatives, visit mennoniteusa.org/bringthepeace.