Day 3 – Stranger Love

Proverbs 3:29-30
Do not plan harm against your neighbor who lives trustingly beside you.
Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, when no harm has been done to you.

“Get out of my country!” These words reportedly preceded the firing of a gun that killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounded Alok Madasani on February 22, 2017.  The 32-year-old immigrants had come to the U.S. from India to work for Garmin, a Kansas City technology company, and were enjoying time at a suburban sports bar.

There were a lot of presumptions at work in this situation.  The shooter, a 51-year-old white male, presumed that the two men were not U.S. Citizens.  Was it the color of their skin? An accent?  The shooter presumed that they were a threat to “his country.”  His presumption of threat led him to plan preemptively and act defensively–even though no harm had been done to him.  In this case, an immigrant from India died, and immigrants (from anywhere) became more anxious about their own safety as they go about their daily routines.

Presumptions are not formed in a vacuum.  They are shaped over time by the messages we receive from family, school, media and even our faith.  And presumptions, once formed, are difficult to change.

But not impossible.

Romans 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Questions for Reflection

What have you been told about immigrants?  Were some immigrants portrayed positively and others negatively?  How have those messages shaped your beliefs and prompted your actions toward immigrants–or people you think may be immigrants?

Do you have any direct personal experience with an immigrant?  If so, how has the relationship impacted your presumptions?

How have you experienced difficulty in changing your presumptions about immigrants?

Read more about the homicide and the investigation.

Advertisements

3 comments

  1. Growing up, all references to immigrants I heard were “The Mexicans.” It was a long time before I knew how to refer to anyone by their country of origin and not just lump them into a group. I still struggle with it, so I try to find out where a person’s country of origin or what their ethnic heritage is before I call them Spanish or Latino or Hispanic. (I actually try not to use those words either because I’m sure I will get it wrong.)

    Volunteering with refugees has helped change my perceptions about immigrants in general because it gives me a frame of reference. I have often worried that when we’re together in a group, someone outside of our group will shout, “Go home!” to these people seeking refuge, but it has not happened. I have become fiercely defensive of my refugee friends, and I hope that carries over to immigrants in general.

    I have not arrived at any kind of perfect understanding or situation, but I’m looking for stories and listening to stories of immigrants and realizing how much of our country has been influenced by immigrants. I also hate that I feel “safe” because of my skin color and I want to be able to use whatever influence I have to change, protect, defend, speak up for. Whatever that looks like.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking questions!

  2. I have to give my parents kudos. When I was 7 years old, they participated in a program that connected international university students with families for Thanksgiving. We had Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings with a couple from Egypt. The husband was studying to become a doctor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. They were of the Coptic faith. I had no idea what that meant, but assumed they were not Christians–at least not “real” Christians.

    Despite the differences in our faith and culture, our family kept up with them over the years. We visited them at their Chicago apartment–in the Robert Taylor Homes (my first experience with public housing!) The husband went on to become a successful surgeon in the Chicago suburbs.

    I’m really grateful that my parents welcomed these strangers. It was a formative experience that has followed me into my work as a pastor in Chicago in a predominantly Latino community. I learned early on that difference could be celebrated and enjoyed, and that immigrants did not need to be feared.

  3. I am thinking about the word “immigrant.” I don’t remember ever hearing this word growing up. If I *really* think about it, I recall a few relatives pointing out that someone (a doctor, neighbor, or service provider) was “African” or “Indian” or “from [country name]” as if that were information pertinent to the fact that they were neighbors or providing whatever the service was. But no one ever used the word immigrant or said “they immigrated from…”

    Even now, if I try to think of “immigrants” I know, my first thought is that I don’t know any. Then I remember that one of my dearest friends, who is now a US citizen, is from Uganda and I realize that she is an immigrant, though I’ve never thought of her as one. We are so close that her family has become my “African family” and her mother, in Uganda, is my African Mama whom I call regularly, though she does not speak English – it is a blessing just to hear her voice and be reminded that she prays for me and my family daily.

    In fact, I have and have had over the years many friends who are immigrants, but I’ve always thought of them as just friends, or maybe when I was in college as “international students” or “exchange students”, never as “immigrants.”

    I guess when I think of “immigrants” now, the picture that comes to mind is very much shaped by the current news and rhetoric I hear. When I hear the word “immigrants,” I tend to think of people from Mexico coming over the US border in search of a better life. I imagine that those spouting the current rhetoric about immigrants picture Mexicans walking over the border with ease in great numbers and “stealing” well-paying American jobs. While “immigrants” does make me think of people from Mexico, the picture I have is of people risking their lives to swim, climb, run, sneak over the border in search of safety (ironic since our nation seems to be progressively less safe for immigrants) and a better life…and often ending up with jobs that pay minimum wage at best, often living in poverty while being thankful that poverty here is still a better life than they may have had in Mexico. I picture people who work hard and try to build a better life for their children and their children’s children while providing valuable (and under-appreciated) services to US citizens.

    The second thought that comes to mind when I hear the word “immigrant” is of my great grandparents who immigrated from Italy around the early 1900s. I have a file with copies of their passports, marriage certificate, and naturalization certificates. This reminds me that it wasn’t that long ago that my relatives were the immigrants, fighting their way to America in search of a better life. They found it – my great grandfather owned a grocery store in Manchester, NH in a building that still stands today and his descendants went on to be happy and successful. I pray that today’s immigrants will also find a better life and a welcoming community in America.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s