Friends who gathered at Pacific Yearly Meeting (PYM) in July 2014 were moved by a refugee crisis unfolding on the US-Mexico border. Thousands of children continue to escape violence in Central America and seek reunification with family members working in the US. The crisis has many causes that require thoughtful analysis to discern long-term solutions, but for us the causes do not matter. As members of PYM’s Latin American Concerns Committee, we seek not to ascribe blame, but rather to follow God’s will. We are led to show love to these children.
Our leading comes from personal experience witnessing violence, fear, and longing for loved ones in Central America. Lynnette Arnold of Santa Barbara Meeting recently returned from El Salvador. She experienced first-hand the danger pervading that country: During her visit, a young man was killed and his body left out in the street to spread fear. With tears streaming down her face, one mother told Lynnette of her decision to save her twelve-year-old daughter from gang recruitment by sending her on the dangerous journey to the United States.
Our leading is also supported by biblical texts and Quaker writings. As we seek to show love to the children fleeing Central America, we are moved by Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. . . Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
To show these children love is to take action to ensure that they are treated in a way that is consistent with God’s will. They deserve ongoing support from sympathetic caregivers, proper shelter and nutrition, medical and psychological treatment, and prompt family reunification.
These children and families also need the assistance of US citizens and US-based institutions to guarantee that they are treated properly and receive the services they deserve. PYM’s Faith and Practice demonstrates that Friends are called to fill such a role: “To be true to [the Spirit we follow], we must recognize and nourish the spiritual worth of all people, particularly those who have been devalued or excluded. Following the Spirit’s leadings together, we hope to overcome the neglect or disrespect of children, the poor, and the socially marginalized.”
We encourage all Friends to: support the lobbying efforts of FCLCA, FCNL and AFSC on this issue; consider becoming foster parents to unaccompanied children; and make donations to organizations that support these children. We urge Friends to raise their voices in vigils, public letters, and everyday conversations to emphasize the humanity of these children. Friends in PYM are also working to take away the necessity for migration through projects such as the Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program of Redwood Forest Meeting and the El Salvador Project of Palo Alto Meeting. Friends have also been involved in responding compassionately to the situation of migrants through the work of Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City and the Scholarship Program for Undocumented Students of the Sacramento Meeting. At this time of crisis, supporting these efforts is more important than ever.
For more information, please contact Lynnette Arnold at lynnettearnold-at-gmail-dot-com or 510-798-9213. Also find more information and resources on the Latin American Concerns page of the PYM website. ~~~
Lynnette Arnold, Alvaro Alvarado, and Donna Smith are members of the Child Refugees and Migration Subcommittee of Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Latin American Concerns Committee.
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