Loving your neighbors means loving immigrants, says Maureen Shannon, executive director of North Littleton Promise for the last six years.
Shannon was part of a panel discussing an evangelical perspective on immigration at Front Range Christian High School on April 26.
“Six years ago, I didn’t know anything about what the Bible said about immigration,” she told an auditorium full of teenagers. “But I did know the Bible says to love your neighbor, and these are my neighbors.”
NLP provides after-school activities for about 40 elementary-school kids and 20 middle-schoolers, many of them children of immigrants, in space donated by Church of God Holiness on Delaware Street. In colorful rooms piled high with books, volunteers help with homework, serve up snacks, teach hymns and much more.
Shannon was joined on stage by Francine Kanyinda of Africa Hope and Sarah Jackson of Casa de Paz.
“We help women and their families to integrate in the culture and help them reach their highest potential and reach their dreams and also strengthen their ties to their homeland,” said Kanyinda. She urges her clients to give back to the countries they came from, strengthening them for those who remain.
Jackson’s organization serves detainees at the federal immigration lockup in Aurora, and those recently released from detention with nowhere to go.
“We find volunteers to go say hi and who can be a companion to them in the middle of this nightmare they’re living,” she said.
The event was part of a two-day conference that capped off 40 days of prayer and meditation on the subject organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table.
“This unprecedented, nationwide evangelical gathering on immigration will show a unified evangelical voice echoing a biblical vision for immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families and upholds human dignity,” reads a press release from organization.
The group sent hundreds of pastors from throughout the nation to Washington, D.C., on April 17 for the national Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform. Among them were Littleton’s Wilmer and Vioneth Ramirez of Denver Seminary and Pastor Nick Lillo of Waterstone Community Church.
“As a pastor, my job is to help people understand how the Bible applies in this day and age,” said Lillo in a statement. “The Scriptures make it very clear that we are to care for those who are vulnerable and marginalized, and consistently mention the alien or the immigrant as a key part of that group. We have no option but to treat the immigrant with fairness and compassion, as we ourselves would want to be treated. The issues around immigration are issues of justice and compassion.”
Back at the high school, that point was hitting home for the students. Abby Klima said it helped her to put a face on a statistic.
“With people right in front of me, I realized a lot of the injustice they encounter is undeserved,” she said.