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Confessions of a Xenophile I confess: I am a xenophile. I have lived happily on three continents to date (Europe and Asia and my native North America); I am married to a Frenchman (thus living in a bilingual household and raising bicultural kids); and our home is situated in a Philadelphia neighborhood known for its long history of racial and economic diversity. I savor those atmospheres where cultures, colors, and generations converge — open-air markets on the outskirts of Paris, check-in lines at international airports, the glorious mix of faces in the stands at the Olympic Games. My favorite scriptural visions are those where an exhilarating variety of peoples are assembled together — in Isaiah 66 where God promises to “gather the people of all nations and languages” so they can see his glory (v. 18), or in Acts 2 where we see Jews “from every nation under heaven…utterly amazed” to hear the gospel being preached in their native tongues (v. 5-11). These passages thrill me — imagine the human

tapestry, each face and frame, skin and soul handcrafted by the Creator and assembled in a magnificent choir of praise to the Almighty! I say all this to admit to you, up front, how partial I am to the movement and merging of people groups. It is hard for me to understand why some people feel so threatened by new arrivals. On the contrary, the risks and dangers of immigration clearly reside among the outsiders coming in and not the other way round. Building a new life in a strange country, often starting over completely from scratch, is one of the most challenging of human experiences. Learning to navigate a new city, securing living arrangements, finding a job that pays a living wage — all in a strange tongue and while dealing with discrimination  — these require extraordinary reserves of courage, faith, and determination. The fact that so many people from around the globe continue to seek a new life in the United States is at least as much a tribute to the human spirit as it is to America’s promise. With our common heritage of immigration (whether we are second- or tenth-generation Americans), US citizens in general should be sympathetic to the dreams and sacrifices of those who want to immigrate here. As people

PRISM 2009


who know what it means to be outsiders (living counter-culturally),Christians in particular should be able to identify with today’s immigrants. When we remember that we enjoy all God’s gifts  — our lives, our salvation, our motherland — not by merit but by grace, we can in turn be gracious to those who aspire to that same kind of life. This special, expanded issue of PRISM focuses on the historical and spiritual implications of immigration while illuminating the social and political realities of today’s debate on immigration reform. I dedicate it to my grandparents, Joseph and Anna Komarnicki, who each bravely left their Ukrainian homeland in the early 1900s, voyaged in the dark underbellies of over-packed ships, passed through the narrow birth canal of Ellis Island, and were reborn as Americans. I’d like to express my deep gratitude to Rev. Luis Cortés, president of the faith-based Hispanic community development organization Esperanza, for co-editing this issue with me. A member of PRISM’s editorial board, he encouraged us to devote an entire issue to the topic of immigration at this crucial moment in history, when the need for reform is greater than ever and when xenophobia — exacerbated by a deep recession — is spiking. Rev. Cortés brainstormed with us, hooked us up with experts, and got the whole thing into motion. I am grateful to have gotten a glimpse of the vision and passion that resides inside his restless, godly heart. We hope these pages will inform, inspire, and empower you to love the strangers among us — until that day when all nations come together to worship the Lord (Rev. 15:4), that glorious day when immigration, documentation, and legislation will all be a thing of the past and we live together in eternal harmony. n

Confessions of a Xenophile  

Reflections from the Editor July 2009