Learning U.S. history as an immigrant child in a college town, I was taught history from an academic perspective with all its good and the bad alike. While Independence Day was to celebrate freedom from British colonizers, it was at a great cost to the African and native peoples. Recognizing that various groups of migrants settled the North American continent for more than thousands of years, and European immigrants being only one of many groups, the religious community set the Sunday closest to July 4 as Immigration Sunday to help us make the U.S. a more just civil society.
The American continents were separated billions of years ago from the other larger landmasses and thus resulted in slower development of human presence. Settling on these continents took thousands of years of people walking across the Bering Sea and moving southward looking for food and safe places to raise families.
In most cases, migration meant moving into a new area and adapting to people's lives there. But U.S. history is an unusual migration in that it is not a story of gradual migration but a mass intrusion into stable societies. The unfortunate story of Columbus is that he was looking for a new trade route with a civilized society of India, which Europe at that time had considered an equal trade partner. However, when he found people that he did not expect, he labeled them as savages. Thus began the unfortunate story of the U.S.
This Sunday, through the biblical story of Abram, we will look at the larger tapestry of immigration. The biblical migration story of three generations of Abram's posterity settling in Canaan is an example of how one group of people wrote their ancestors' story from the perspective of hope for a better life. It also shows that their hopes were fraught with tragedies, fears, and heartaches. I believe it is important that we look at the stories of migration through the social lens of humanity wanting to live together in peace and not through the economic lens of power and domination.
It is important for us to remember that while we are enjoying a day off, having B-B-Q with family and friends, and fireworks, many are mourning their loss of dignity, grieving their loss of identity, and weeping the injustices they and their ancestors have suffered. Our remembrance of history must not be so myopic that we become blind to the fact that, for many, the event has come to mean suffering, not freedom. Human migration continues to this day and will continue as long as life exists because at the very core of all life is hope.
On this Independence Day, let us commit ourselves to freedom for all peoples of the entire earth. Let us work for the fulfillment of hope for everyone. Let us be the people of God.