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Lenten Challenge to Extend Empathy

Mar 16, 2012
Tessa Winkler

How is Lent going for you?  It is my hope that this season of repentance and fasting reaffirms your faith and transforms your spirit.  If you're anything like me, however, you may have accidentally eaten a slice of pepperoni pizza last Friday and your penitential promise to read the Bible has left you few pages past the story of Adam and Eve.  I find it difficult to strike a balance of Lenten observance that both strengthens my discipline in prayer and serves as a doable, realistic commitment to bettering myself. 

To help you on your path, CLINIC has invited readers to join us in "welcoming the stranger" during this Easter season.  Although, like me, you may have encountered bumps along the way, I urge you to look within yourself and challenge the beliefs holding you back from connecting with God and supporting His most oppressed people. 

It's easy to overlook the human element of migration.  Especially in an election year,

economic arguments for immigration often take precedent over the personal stories of those fleeing persecution.   While CLINIC often cites studies showing the benefits of immigration on employment and wages, our advocacy is centered around the belief that the provision of legal services to immigrants is crucial to maintaining the dignity of the human person.   

Barriers to immigrants' success not only exist in policy, however.  Challenges to welcoming the stranger are often born from miscommunication and misunderstanding.  Although some make the case that an asylum seeker or undocumented student are a drain on scarce American resources, Matthew 5:46-47 calls us to look beyond ourselves and lift up the persecuted among us:  "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?"  I encourage you to join me in taking Matthew's message to heart--to challenge yourself to extend empathy to all of God's children this Lenten Season. 

While my fasting on Fridays has been less than perfect, I am proud to say that I have made progress toward the achievement of one of my Lenten goals.  Instead of simply cringing when I hear my friends use pejorative terms like "illegals," I've spoken up.  By illuminating the human aspect of migration, God is teaching me to stand up for the vulnerable whose voices are not heard.   Although this may sound like semantics, by intentionally choosing language like "undocumented immigrants" over "illegal aliens" and by educating my friends and family on the cases my colleagues take on each day, I see more clearly why God has called me to CLINIC.  My eyes have opened wider to the human face of the immigrant experience, all the while, equipping me to better encourage others to welcome the stranger both professionally and personally. 

As Easter Sunday quickly approaches, may we see beyond politics and self-bias to embrace God's call to do more.  May we challenge ourselves to view the "stranger" and the world around us through new eyes and to greet not only our brothers, but to grow in solidarity with all of God's children. 

*Tessa is the Communications Officer/Web Content Coordinator for CLINIC