Tonight, the Interfaith Alliance for Justice is hosting a celebration of the solidarity of communities of faith at Yale and in New Haven with undocumented peoples.
Although we come from different faiths, we share social and moral values which guide our political choices. As a part of New Haven Solidarity Week, we support the municipal ID program in New Haven and seek to confront broader issues of injustice facing undocumented peoples in this country. Here are some of our voices of solidarity, sharing the ways that we use our diverse religious traditions to seek peace and justice in the world.
As Jews, we read again and again a variation on the verse, “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.” This text draws on the Jewish immigration experience to demand that we act fairly and compassionately towards the stranger.
The difficulty that immigrants in New Haven face right now is not foreign to American Jewish history. When Jews wanted to come here en masse at the start of the 20th century, they faced discrimination because of their religion, hardships because of their poverty and barriers to fair and equal treatment under the law. Society can be indifferent and even cruel to its newest members and it is up to those who have been strangers to intervene. As our sage Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Undocumented immigrants in New Haven are afraid to speak to the police, cannot open a bank account and are victimized routinely by violent crime, all because they are considered strangers. We, as Jews, in light of our history and tradition, offer to the Yale community the injunction not to turn a blind eye to the stranger just because we are doing well.
As Unitarian Universalists we engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning in the context of a supportive religious community. Although we have no creeds and do not look for unanimity on spiritual matters, we have written principles that reflect our shared values. The first principle states that we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the sixth calls for the goal of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. Each of these speaks to the way we individually confront issues of injustice towards undocumented peoples, as well as the way we as an association of congregations engage politically with the issue. Therefore we stand in solidarity with other people of faith and with immigrants and their families in order to respect their inherent worth and dignity as we do for all people.
As Christians, we believe that God’s love compels us to love one another. That love also demands justice. Our scriptures instruct us, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34). We must stand in solidarity with immigrants in our community. To us, registering for the municipal IDs is one way of loving “the stranger” as ourselves.
For those of us who are Roman Catholics, our Scripture and our rich tradition of social teaching calls us to be concerned for and in solidarity with all migrants as members of the one human family. Pope John Paul II highlighted this very theme in his Message for the 85th World Migration Day in 1999, stating “Catholicity is [expressed] in the hospitality extended to the stranger, whatever his religious belief, in the rejection of all racial exclusion or discrimination, in the recognition of the personal dignity of every man and woman and, consequently, in the commitment to furthering their inalienable rights.” Solidarity is a natural component of our Christian faith.
As Muslims, we believe that social justice is integral to Islam and we applaud New Haven’s commitment to it. Islam emphasizes the absolute freedom of conscience, the human dignity universal to us all and the social interdependence among members of society. Islam is rooted in the hospitality of strangers and foreigners. The very first community of Muslims escaped severe persecution in Makkah only due to the warm welcome extended by their Jewish brothers in the northern city of Madinah, who invited Prophet Muhammad to serve as a mediator among their tribes.
Prophet Muhammad’s very final address reminded the people of Madinah of the importance of diversity, equality and community. He said, “Your God is one, and your forefather is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab, and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red person is not better than a black person, and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety.” The Qur’an tells us, “O Mankind! We created you as male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with God is that of you who has piety” (49:13).
We invite you to come and share in this interfaith celebration and to participate in the simple and concrete act of solidarity of signing up for a municipal ID this week in Dwight Hall.
Frances Kelley and Lea Krivchenia are seniors in Timothy Dwight College. Kelley is a member of SALT of the Earth and Krivchenia is a member of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. This editorial is endorsed by Jews for Justice, Yale Hillel, Salt of the Earth, St. Thomas More, Muslim Students Association, and the Unitarian Universalist Student Fellowship.