Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Facing the Challenges of Immigration from a Religious Perspective

The corresponding video can be viewed at

4/13/2011 11:43 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:43 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:47 am (et) rasmussen: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:47 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:48 am (et) Hengist: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:48 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:48 am (et) Lin: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:48 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:52 am (et) James: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:52 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:53 am (et) lrd2037: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:53 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:55 am (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:55 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:58 am (et) solfrid: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:58 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:58 am (et) Bernice: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:58 am (et).
4/13/2011 11:59 am (et) TomB: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 11:59 am (et).
4/13/2011 12:00 pm (et) Alice Foltz: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:00 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
4/13/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is “Dealing with the Challenges of Immigration from a Religious Perspective.” We are featuring Ms. Alice Foltz. She is a member of Wellspring United Church of Christ and President of Centreville Immigration Forum, a coalition of churches and individuals in Centreville, VA that work together to enhance the quality of life for immigrants in the community. It is a 501c3 through it s affiliation with Virginia Organizing.
4/13/2011 12:01 pm (et) Moderator: For more information, their website is
4/13/2011 12:01 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from “soapboxing.” If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
4/13/2011 12:01 pm (et) jfoltzva: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:01 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:01 pm (et) Lukas: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:01 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:02 pm (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. Note, there is some static around the 1:00 mark, but it will pass. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it led to some issues.
4/13/2011 12:09 pm (et) Moderator: Lin said: What is exactly about your faith that draws you to this work?
4/13/2011 12:09 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: The work of this church is extending Christian love to those in need without judgement. What can be so wrong about that?
4/13/2011 12:11 pm (et) monkey: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:11 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:11 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: It boils down to who we are willing to accept as part of our community, both our immediate community and the community of those nations we want to include as part of our broader community. Can we redefine the issue as a matter of how much we are willing to be good neighbors?
4/13/2011 12:12 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Christian faith reaches back to Old Testament teachings that we care for the aliens among us as ourselves. The day laborers are human beings in need, and we are called to love and care for "the least of these." Jesus talked about this in Matthew.
4/13/2011 12:12 pm (et) Moderator: Lin said: Do you find it translates across traditions?
4/13/2011 12:14 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Definitely all the faiths teach that we treat others with love and nonviolence. I am impressed by teachings of Islam in which there is great emphasis on equality, and certainly these are central to Buddhism.
4/13/2011 12:15 pm (et) Alice Foltz: It is often easier for faith communities in developed countries to collect offerings and send money far away (and this is often needed!), but it is harder for us to act out generosity in our daily lives and in the communities where we live.
4/13/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Why do you think so many Americans are resistant to the new immigrants here already?
4/13/2011 12:16 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Part of any Faith is to redefine the community, to extend our vision to include a broader population.
4/13/2011 12:16 pm (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:16 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: we hear all sorts of excuses like: they are taking jobs away from us. But that argument does not hold water because they take jobs that none of us want.
4/13/2011 12:17 pm (et) Alice Foltz: There is a fear that we will lose our identity and the way we see ourselves as Americans. Someone at an early Forum meeting said he feared that the ingredients would overwhelm the soup in our "melting pot."
4/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: James said: I think its because xenophobia is part of American culture. Which is in contrast to our values as religious people, we are taught to know and love one another, and that God made us diverse so that we may learn about each other
4/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: People are afraid of change, and immigrants can seem to be one of the more obvious signs of change. Seeing change as positive may be a key to resolution of the issue.
4/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: taking away our identity Isn't American identity a nation of immigrants (we seem to forget that our own ancestors were immigrants).
4/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: The fear does not seem alien to religion either. Historically, most religions have had a period in which they are not open to outsiders.
4/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Alice Foltz: The truth is that America is always changing, nothing is static, and we can grow in our own faith and life by being generous. Fear does not create safe space for anyone.
4/13/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But if there is a history of religions acting in the same way, how can we refocus our communities to be accepting?
4/13/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Actually, I'm teaching a class right now about religious history in America. There does seem to be a long history of resistance to new kinds of people (from different religions as well as cultures) coming here. I just find it ironic.
4/13/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: James said: Ive always seen America as more of a salad than a melting pot. But I am the son of an immigrant. To some people who have been here for hundreds of years (still hundreds of years less than the natives) the definition of 'American' is limited to a select group of people
4/13/2011 12:20 pm (et) Alice Foltz: It's definitely true that Americans have often wanted to turn away new immigrants who were perceived as threatening established patterns. Irish Catholics, Germans, Jewish immigrants, Chinese and Japanese....the list is huge. But that doesn't meant we can't find better ways, today.
4/13/2011 12:21 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: The conflict between generations often reflects a reaction to change which younger people are often more willing to come to terms with.
4/13/2011 12:21 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs off on 4/13/2011 12:21 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do you think the religious community is where to find these news ways? and what are they?
4/13/2011 12:22 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Young people whom I've taught are always welcoming, and I think that when we know folks up close and in classmates, for's hard to despise them.
4/13/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: And it is interesting to point out that it is younger generations, the younger generations are said to be less religious.
4/13/2011 12:23 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: When religions give up on trying to connect with new folks, trying to preserve an imagined pure state, they are in danger of becoming useless and irrelevant.
4/13/2011 12:23 pm (et) Karel: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:23 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:24 pm (et) AKD: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:24 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:24 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Religious faith has been the center of many folks who have been involved in the Immigration Forum from the beginning. The faith call is hard to miss. Some people can come from other perspectives, but it's definitely been the religious community that has responded first in Centreville.
4/13/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: private message to solfrid: Hey, I lost your comment in the rush can you send something else?
4/13/2011 12:25 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do you have a wide variety of faiths represented in the Forum?
4/13/2011 12:26 pm (et) Alice Foltz: We have volunteers from many Protestant churches, from Catholic churches, and also some Jewish volunteers.
4/13/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: It is popular to think of religious communities as inherently static, but we know this is not the case. The fact that religion is regarded as being against change says a lot about the problems of our society. Immigrants, many of whom have a different view of religion, could be helpful to our society.
4/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I do find that true, as a Catholic many feel that the Church is monolithic, but that is of course not the case (how can something be around for 2000 years without changing?) But at the same time, does the idea of a faith changing help us deal with change in a broader context?
4/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: James said: Is there any evidence that immigrants who are members of established faith communities (Korean Catholics for example) are more easily accepted/integrated into society?
4/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Someone commented in an ESL class last Sunday that immigrants are more "patriotic" than many-generational Americans! It's easy to see that in the community we have learned to know. They bring gifts to us of sight, helping us to see the things of value in our community and in our faith.
4/13/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: Lin said: What can faith communities do to help new immigrants who have no clear religious beliefs?
4/13/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: Karel said: yes, you're right, that is a view to see religion as non static, the people who are atheist (a belief also) have sometimes static views on change we must do...we have to stop generalizing
4/13/2011 12:30 pm (et) Alice Foltz: One woman in an ESL group said that she goes to church (an English church) every Sunday, but no one talks to her. That's really sad, and I hope that all churches will find ways to reach out.
4/13/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yes, I would agree there are views of non-change, but I don't think even those can be generalized as atheistic.
4/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) yasha: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:32 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I think we were just pointing out that in the general schema of life, most notice that things do not remain static, whether political or religious.
4/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Karel said: I'm from Quebec province in Canada and presently, there is a kind of hunt for witches against people with religions beliefs, that do a lot for society in the communities, as well as the public institutions
4/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Back to Lin's communities can talk to immigrants, invite them to participate in small groups, find out their stories. Immigrants are human beings just like us, and need conversation.
4/13/2011 12:33 pm (et) Moderator: James said: Im not sure I understand your comment Karel
4/13/2011 12:33 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Where Faith groups can lead is by making it clear that immigrants have a place in our society and are valued, that immigrants are seen as bringing talents and qualities to the table that will benefit both our country and our faith groups.
4/13/2011 12:36 pm (et) Alice Foltz: The workers in Centreville held a worship service last fall, when a visiting priest was able to lead in their native Mayan language. It was wonderful to see folks gather from across the region, and to see them worship and sing together as they hadn't been able to do for some years. It would, however, have been possible if we in the Wellspring Church hadn't known them and provided space for this to happen. It definitely enriched all of us who took part.
4/13/2011 12:36 pm (et) Moderator: Karel said: In Quebec, we look suspiciously at people with different believes (especially religion and the immigrant that are more traditional)
4/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What do you think makes faith groups especially well equipped for that, Hengist?
4/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Quebec is not alone in this, I'm sure!
4/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Karel said: hehe im sure about that
4/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But why do you think that is?
4/13/2011 12:38 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Why are faith groups afraid to speak out for people who don't have voices? (This includes immigrants, the poor, and many other groups!) Why do we allow the voices of fear to dominate the public conversations?
4/13/2011 12:39 pm (et) RevMark2U: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/13/2011 12:39 pm (et).
4/13/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Don't religions tell us to do the opposite? I think Chrisitianity does, do others?
4/13/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: James said: I think it is because some people dont grow up in incredibly diverse environments. If you have never met or experienced a Muslim until you turn 25, then you might be suspicious... I grew up with muslims catholics and jews, and I would fancy that had a hand in the level of tolerance I try to exhibit
4/13/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: What equips Faith groups for opening up society to newcomers are the stories and teachings, and the sense that we can best serve God by being of service to our fellow human beings, and by recognizing that we are all children of a loving God.
4/13/2011 12:41 pm (et) Alice Foltz: We have power, the strength of faith and the guarantee that God/Allah/etc will be with us regardless of the risk of rejection or failure. But still our tendency is to keep still and care for our own small garden, forgetting those outside the walls.
4/13/2011 12:41 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But can't that be construed as a belief that is specific to a particular tradition?
4/13/2011 12:42 pm (et) Moderator: AKD said: I think it's human to be more comfortable to what is known and familiar. In general, we gravitate toward the known. However, our higher spritual or religious selves call us to move beyond comfort and do what is right like welcoming the stranger. We've all been strangers in some context and all it takes is to remember those feelings to know it is right to reach out.
4/13/2011 12:44 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: A study of history would suggest that immigrants do change a society, and we who are products of such changes that happened in the past tend to see those changes as natural and beneficial.
4/13/2011 12:44 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Ricardo Esquivia, a peacemaker in Colombia, said that nearly everyone in Colombia claims to be Christian; if all acted on their faith, there would be peace and justice for all. But we so easily justify exclusion and self-protection, even within religious groups.
4/13/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Religion is a comfort though, AKD, you said that it asks us to step outside of our comfort zone, but many retreat to their traditions for comfort.
4/13/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Religions even seem to be a vehicle for exclusion, Alice.
4/13/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: How do we change it?
4/13/2011 12:46 pm (et) Moderator: AKD said: I think the comfort we find in our traditions should be based on a confidence that we're acting justly.
4/13/2011 12:46 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Susan & AKD....the comfort comes not only from familiar liturgies, music and words....but from sharing these with other folks. If we only want to be surrounded by the symbols of religion, and shut out the voices of people, we may as well worship in museums!
4/13/2011 12:47 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: The value os being static is that it provides an illusion of security. Can we use the power of our beliefs to embrace change, since we have values to steer that change, to some extent, and religions that teach us that we have ways finding security even in the midst of change.
4/13/2011 12:48 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Susan: Yes, religion has often been used as a terrible weapon. But that does not mean that we have to continue that pattern. MLK said the ark of the future tends toward justice...and I think we have to figure out how to make this happen.
4/13/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: The exclusive trends in religion seem to be a vehicle for stability as well, so we would also have to break those down.
4/13/2011 12:50 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Stability does not mean "no change." This is impossible unless we are dead! Stability means finding the ways to create community that live together.
4/13/2011 12:50 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Seems a much larger leap of faith at that point. It remings me of Kierkegaard who speaks about faith as floating on water, we just have to let ourselves go and then we can be comforted.
4/13/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: This is RevMark2U's whole comment: The studies of neuroscience now are fascinating. There seems to be a built-in conservatism/protectionism retreat and fortify process, connected to our "reptilian brain," our limbic system. I find this at work in most of all religions. But there also can arise and has arisen in all religions an opening up to the new, the different. Whence it arises remains a mystery, but some attach to it the name of their God, or for non-theistic religions (much of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Humanism, Naturalism) something else.
4/13/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: The Ark is a powerful symbol, navigating to a brand new world, with our beliefs providing shelter (psychologically, at least). This does not mean going back to the world that was, but to a new and better life.
4/13/2011 12:55 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Religion also helps us understand that all of us, wherever we are, are immigrants in this life with a larger mission and faith world outside ourselves. Protecting our little corner of the universe is not the ultimate goal. Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God....that's where truth is.
4/13/2011 12:55 pm (et) Moderator: Hi All, we are coming to the end of our time together for this week, so I just want to make sure our final thoughts are all heard.
4/13/2011 12:56 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Do contact CIF at! and I hope folks everywhere will find new ways to reach out to the most vulnerable in your own communities!
4/13/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Interesting use of the Torah image of the Ark - shelter until you reach the new world. Similar image in Buddhism, but with a difference - take a boat to the other shore, but when you have reached the other shore you no longer need the boat, so you can discard it.
4/13/2011 12:58 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Maybe the boat image helps us to realize that "immigration" is not the point, and all of us are on a journey as human beings searching for God/truth.
4/13/2011 12:58 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Cortez burned his boats, but most immigrants, like us, will want to hold onto them. Thank you very much, all of you.
4/13/2011 12:58 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. We would like to relate a few details. The Day Workers Center mentioned has an expected Summer 2011 opening. Also, in preparation for that, Centreville Immigration Forum is searching for a Director and two part-time positions. Information is available on their website. If you are interested in further communication our speaker, you can reach her at (there is also a link to this on their website).
4/13/2011 12:58 pm (et) Moderator: We hope to see you back here next week, same place, same time. We will be offering an open forum on the question, “The Goals of Interreligious Dialogue” with Rev. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of IFC, offering a quick reflection and standing by.
4/13/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Also, this is a new effort on our part so we welcome your feedback! Any comments will be helpful. If you have any suggestion please feel free to email me at
4/13/2011 12:59 pm (et) Alice Foltz: The blessings of generosity in our communities can be huge.
4/13/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: If you are interested in finding out more about our organization please feel free to browse our website: and sign up for our bi-monthly e-newsletter by emailing me, again the address is
4/13/2011 12:59 pm (et) Alice Foltz: Thanks!