Berrien Springs, Michigan—More than 300 participants attending last weekend's Hispanic Youth Congress on the campus of Andrews University signed petitions requesting fairness and humanity in policies pertaining to U.S. immigration and gun control.
According to Carmelo Mercado, Lake Union vice president and director of Multicultural ministries, the decision to circulate the two petitions grew out of discussions leading up to a social justice workshop at the youth congress, as “we wanted to not just talk the theory, but address social justice issues in a practical way.” Mercado explained that the move is startling and unusual because oftentimes Hispanics are fearful of going public about these frightening issues.
In announcing the immigration petition on Saturday evening, Ingrid Slikkers, Andrews University social work professor and Bethany Christian Services’ social worker, shared disturbing stories of children separated from their parents. She detailed traumatic incidents such as a six-month old baby now in their care who was pulled apart from their mother, as well as children asking about their parents’ whereabouts and the agency’s social workers being unable to answer those distressing questions.
Left to right: Carmelo Mercado, Lake Union vice president and director of multicultural ministry; Ingrid Slikkers, Andrews University assistant professor and Bethany Christian Services social worker; Nicholas Miller, Andrews University professor and Lake Union Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director; Kerling Montanez, Conéctate vice president; Mayrel Narvaez, Conéctate committee member; Eva Cruz, Conéctate president.
Below is a copy of both petitions drafted with the help of the Lake Union Public Affairs and Religious Director, Nicholas Miller, which will be mailed to the federal congresspersons and senators in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Statement and Petition by Lake Union Hispanic Adventist Youth and Young Adults on Issues Relating to Fairness and Humanity in Immigration Policy
As young people with a great appreciation for the United States, we are deeply disappointed and alarmed about the current inhumane oversight and implementation of the immigration laws and policies of our country. Our present concern focuses on two matters, which we believe arise to the level of deeply moral issues for us as Christian young people.
First, we are deeply concerned by the absence of an organized response to the lack of protection for those that are a part of the DACA “Dreamers program,” since that program began to be phased out in September of last year. We believe that something must be done [to] protect and formalize a path to residency and citizenship for young people who have lived in this country almost all their lives, and who have contributed to it by their hard work and labor. We understand that there are a number of bills before various congressional committees that could deal with this issue. We urge our elected leaders to support the discharge petition H. Res. 774, which would allow these bills to be considered by Congress.
Second, we are greatly dismayed by the “zero tolerance” policy that has been instituted by the Department of Justice in relation to immigration enforcement. This has resulted in the ongoing separation of immigrant children from their parents. This is a very troubling policy that creates severe hardships and trauma on children and parents alike. Such a policy should not be tolerated in a country that prides itself on its humanitarian values and the equality of all human beings before their Creator, as set forth in our Declaration of Independence. We urge our elected representatives to press the Executive Branch to modify this policy, and to seek for ways to keep immigrant children and parents together.
Thank you for your ongoing leadership, and considering our concerns in these important matters.
Statement and Petition by Lake Union Hispanic Adventist Youth and Young Adults on Issues Relating to Fairness and Humanity in Gun Control Policy
As young people with great appreciation for the United States, we are deeply disappointed, concerned, and afraid about our safety. The safety of our society has been shaken. The reason for this is because of the lack of laws and policies on automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons.
Automatic or semi-automatic weapons used with bump stocks or otherwise modified to increase their rate of fire have one main purpose. That purpose is to continuously or rapidly fire rounds at a high volume as long as there is ammunition in the magazine or the chamber. In short, these weapons are perfectly designed to injure and kill a large number of people.
Looking at a biblical perspective, Christ came into the world to save lives, not to destroy them. (Luke 9:56). When Peter drew his weapons, Jesus said to him: “Put your sword back in its place… all who take the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52). Jesus did not engage in violence.
It is alarming that these assault-style weapons can easily be purchased in the United States. Their availability can only open the possibility for further tragedies.
Peace and the preservation of life are to be the goals of Christians. Evil cannot be effectively met with evil, but must be overcome with good. We as Seventh-day Adventists youth, with other people of good will, wish to cooperate in using every legitimate means of reducing, and eliminating where possible, the root causes of violent crime in our communities, and especially in our schools, which should be havens of peace and safety.
In addition, with public safety and the value of human life in mind, the sale of automatic or semi-automatic assault-style weapons should be strictly controlled. This would reduce the use of weapons by mentally disturbed people and criminals, especially those involved in drug and gang activities. We make a call onto the elected representatives to take action to reduce the sale of automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons to the general public.
About the Lake Union: The Lake Union Conference serves 88,000 Seventh-day Adventist members in the Illinois, Indiana, Lake Region, Michigan, and Wisconsin conferences.
About the Lake Union Youth Congress: Conéctate is a bi-lingual Hispanic Youth Congress held every two years for purpose of training and equipping youth for a life of service to Christ.
This press release was written by Debbie Michel, Lake Union associate director of communication, and provided by the Lake Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Main photo: Armando Miranda, keynote speaker and NAD Associate Youth Director, takes a selfie with youth congress attendees. Photos courtesy of the Lake Union Conference.
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