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Taking a Biblical Look at Immigration

By Rachel Judy | October 4, 2011

Dr. Richard Land

Immigration is a hot topic in the news today—questions about the effectiveness of the laws related to undocumented immigrants and how to provide education for the children of undocumented immigrants continue in the headlines. Recognizing the important nature of these issues, Regent University's Center for Latino Leadership (CLL) hosted a forum discussion "Exploring Immigration from a Biblical Perspective."

The forum featured Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The purpose of the discussion was to present and expand a Biblical understanding of immigration issues and help students to distinguish between faith, values and ideology.

The forum was the centerpiece of a number of activities on Regent's campus to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM). Held each year between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, students, faculty and staff had a number of opportunities this year to learn more about the Hispanic heritage and celebrate together.

"CLL has taken the National Hispanic Heritage Month as one of the key strategic celebrations encompassing global learning, active citizenship and commitment to Kingdom values," explained Dr. Marcela Chaván-Matviuk, director of the CLL. "As a center, we strive to increase global and cross-cultural competency among our students by assisting in inter/cross-cultural dialogue, increasing student exposure to diverse peoples and offering opportunities for students to become engaged global citizens."

Land began the forum discussion focusing on the need to reform existing immigration laws. "As Christians we have a responsibility to address this issue in a way that respects the rule of law," he explained. "Our Christian faith must inform the exercise of our civic duty." Land went on to explain that a Christian reaction to any immigration issue should include compassion, respect for the dignity of all people and efforts to meet the needs of people.

While he urged the audience to practice these attitudes towards all people, he was also firm in his belief that change needs to be made. "The government and society need to accept some level of responsibility for the situation we now face," he said. "The challenge is to enable government to fulfill its obligations to its citizens and strangers."

After Land offered some of his own solutions, several Regent professors gave their responses. First was Dr. Dale Coulter, associate professor in the School of Divinity. His response to Land's comments was to highlight the tensions that exist between following the rule of law and the call of the church to provide hospitality. "These are not mere human beings crossing the borders, but brothers and sisters in Christ," he pointed out.

Coulter was followed by Dr. Mary Manjikian, assistant professor in the Robertson School of Government, who emphasized the need to look at the issue of immigration from the bottom up—starting with the person coming into the United States. Using the stories of immigrants in the Bible, she reminded the audience that looking at the laws instead of the people they protect can be a problem. "I think it's a slippery slope once we start parsing out policy in this way," she said.

The final response was given by Dr. Philip Bom, professor in the Robertson School of Government. Bom himself is an immigrant who came to the United States in the 1950s. Similar to Land, Bom offered suggestions for ways the government can improve how it works with immigrants.

At the conclusion of the forum, Chaván-Matviuk and Dr. Paul Bonicelli, Regent's executive vice president, presented awards. The first award was presented to Land, honoring him as an "Ambassador of Christian Ethics." The second was presented to Idalia Rosa-Martinez '00 (Communication & the Arts), head of the foreign language department at Atlantic Shores Christian Schools in Virginia Beach, Va., as an "Ambassador of the Christian Community."

Additional HHM celebrations were held on campus throughout the month. One of the more notable events was the Latino Bienvenidos Fiesta, on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The reception was held to honor Regent's Latino students and provided a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and staff to come together to celebrate.

The fourth annual Hispanic Chapel was held on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and featured Regent president, Dr. Carlos Campo. President Campo spoke about his own heritage and urged the Regent community to remember that—regardless of ethnicity—identity is found in Jesus Christ. Other events included the Chispa Media Festival, held on Friday, Sept. 23, and "This is My Historia," an opportunity for Regent Latinos to share their stories with the community.

CLL exists to help Latino students in all aspects of their journey at Regent and to make a positive difference in the community, nation and world.

Learn more about the Center for Latino Leadership.


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