A World on the MoveImmersionsParis Immersion

Reflections from the American Church in Paris

Immersion participants will be blogging here throughout their course, “Immigration/Refugee Crisis, Religion, Globalization and the Post-Colonial State,” sponsored by Pacific School of Religion, UC Berkeley Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP), and Zaytuna College. Today’s post is from Joel Wildermuth, an MDiv student at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. 

As we are quickly learning, the study of human migration is deeply complex. It requires thorough care in attending to the layers of identity that are bound up in conversations around the on-going global migration crisis.

As a group of learners from diverse backgrounds, we continue to encounter the challenge of conversations in which religious, ethnic, and social identity are significant factors. What we are learning to embrace is the discomforting nature of these kinds of conversations, and the fact that they demand honest, intentional, and respectful engagement from us if we are to adequately make sense of what we are seeing around us and how we might respond to it. In this way, discomfort is good. Discomfort summons us—particularly those of us who come from positions of privilege—to see the narratives of injustice and oppression that we have been blind to, and further demands that we see (and hear!) these narratives with humility and compassion. Staying with one another through these conversations is part of the necessary work that needs to be done as people join together in justice work.

On a more personal level, I would like to share a thought that came to me as we listened to the migration stories of six members of the American Church in Paris – a congregation in which 40-50 nationalities are represented. In each story it was evident that legal matters played a significant role. Who is allowed in? Who is not allowed in? How long can they stay? What are they allowed to do? How long does it take to obtain legal papers? And how does one’s identity factor in to these questions? The only thing I could think of as I listened to these stories was: Why is it that legally belonging somewhere is such a big deal, and why have we allowed the legality/illegality of migration to preclude the moral prerogative we have to help our fellow human beings seeking safety, opportunity, a place of belonging, and a place to flourish? I yearn for a world in which national boundaries no longer deprive people of these things.