This is what my pastor told me my first Sunday here, commenting on my blue eyes and my fair complexion (the statement means “it’s because you look really foreign”, more or less). He was warning that people might try to take advantage of me, because, well, I look like the gringa (this term isn’t always used derisively) that I am. And, in fact, it happens from time to time. I don’t receive the change that I should for my buseta fare, taxi drivers try to charge me too much (as of late, I haven’t put up much of a fuss about it; it’s always been less than one US dollar to this point, which I acknowledge would be a much bigger deal if I weren’t such a fortunate and privileged gringa).
…but that’s not really what I want to talk about. Since I’ve been reflecting on that statement and the various incidents related to the statement for about two weeks now, it’s really got me thinking…who are the people who “parecen muy extranjeras” who we discriminate against, take advantage of, fail to extend God’s love and grace to? And how can we work to build a more just and inclusive world that does not discriminate against or take advantage of these “strangers”?
At risk of making this post a Public Service Announcement about changing the UMC and the world (okay, admittedly, that’s exactly what my life is, isn’t it…?), here are some ways I see that we as individuals and we as a church can work to build a more just, inclusive world for everyone, including those who “parecen muy extranjeras” (the list is alphabetical, and of course not an exhaustive list, but a start; feel free to share others by commenting):
DREAM Sabbath – campaign encouraging communities of faith around the country to advocate for the DREAM Act, which would provide inroads to citizenship to undocumented young adults who were brought to the United States as children who have completed 2 complete years of either college or military service.
Drop the I-Word Campaign – campaign by the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) of The United Methodist Church seeking to have 10,000 pledges by United Methodists by December 6, 2011 to drop the use of the term
“illegal”to describe human beings, particularly undocumented immigrants.
God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action – building a network of United Methodists to take action around three interconnected issues threatening God’s good creation (based on a statement by the United Methodist Council of Bishops): pandemic poverty and disease, environmental degradation, and proliferation of violence and weapons.
Illegitimate Debt Week – campaign by Jubilee USA to mobilize groups around the world to participate in a week of action (October 8-16) to eliminate illegitimate debt and reform international financial institutions. Seeking economic justice for countries plagued by debt.
Interfaith Youth Core – movement building bridges between young people of various faith backgrounds and non-religious people around principles of service and justice.
Preaching to Save Lives – campaign by the General Board of Church and Society encouraging pastors to take action during October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) by preaching on the subject of domestic violence.
Reconciling Ministries Network – working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals in The United Methodist Church. Changing The United Methodist Church word-by-word so that LGBTQ folks might no longer be deemed “incompatible” by the church they love (United Methodist Social Principles, ¶161F).
It is my hope that together, we can all work to build a more just and sustainable human community for all people, especially for those who “parecen muy extranjeras”.