Friday, I took part in a press conference of religious leaders, gathered to show their support for the MegaMarch. I’ve already posted the comments at Northaven’s blog. But I thought I’d post it here too. The press conference was covered in the DMN here, and here’s a pretty decent news story from Channel 11.
The DMN story has generated quite a few comments. A few of them were thoughtful; many were really quite angry and bitter. There are obviously a lot of feelings on all sides of these issues.
Prepared remarks for a press conference in support of comprehensive immigration reform, the Dream Act, and the MegaMarch.
Dallas City Hall
April 29, 2010
My name is Rev. Eric Folkerth and I am the senior pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas.
I am pleased to be standing before you this afternoon in support of comprehensive immigration reform, the Dream Act, and the MegaMarch.
I am pleased to tell you that members of Northaven United Methodist Church –myself included– took part in the original MegaMarch of 2006. We were honored and humbled then to march alongside of 500,000 of our Latino/Latina brothers and sisters. And we look forward to being a part of the march on this coming Saturday.
All of us here today stand before you as leaders of our churches and synagogues. I stand before you because I believe Jesus commands those of us who follow him as Lord and Savior to “Love our neighbor as ourselves.”
And in the Gospels of Jesus, Jesus is very clear that our “neighbor” is often a person of another race…an outsider…a foreigner…those who are considered “different.”
I stand before you, because I believe standing for the rights of immigrants is part of following the commandments of Jesus.
Old Testament law (the Hebrew scriptures )also reminds us that God’s holy people were once foreigners in a strange land. And, therefore, God commands faithful people, then and now, to treat the foreigner, the “alien,” the outsider as if they were one of your own. That’s in the Bible!
So, we are not as here as politicians. We are here to speak to what we believe to be God’s commandments.
A moment ago, I mentioned the original MegaMarch of 2006. To those of you in the media, to those of you who are our elected leaders, I implore you to refer back to that march as you also look forward to Saturday’s march.
Please hear this next sentence: The MegaMarch of 2006 was the largest single peaceful demonstration in the history of Dallas, Texas by a factor of ten. Think about that. It was the largest peaceful demonstration on ANY social issue in ANY historical time, in Dallas’ history.
Saturday’s march will likely take its place as no less than the second largest march in our city’s history (although we of course won’t know until it gets here…)
So, I implore our citizens, the media and politicians….as you evaluate angry voices on talk radio, as you hear angry calls on elected officials voicemails, please also listen to and remember the peaceful witness of the hundreds of thousands who marched in 2006, and all who will march Saturday.
We must listen to their voices too.
Saturday’s march is not a response to the new Arizona law (it was planned before that news broke) but a continuation of a witness and dream –a reminder of the unfinished business of immigration reform– that languished for years.
Concerning Arizona’s new law however, those of us here today are not scholars of constitutional law, but we are scholars of God’s law. And we respectfully suggest that this new law violates God’s specific commandment to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” and God’s commandment to “treat the foreigner as if they were one of your own.”
Jesus’ call to love our neighbor, the desire to support immigrants and our Latino/Latina brothers and sisters everywhere, is why I will march on Saturday.
And I thank you for your time and attention today.