The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas is the major sponsor of an educational documentary on immigration being produced by EthicsDaily.com.
The wall separating the United States from Mexico, as seen from the Mexican side of the border town of Nogales. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)
The documentary is designed for use in churches to bring more light and less heat to the inflammatory issue. Last year, Gallup ranked immigration as one of the top five problems facing the country.
"We are pleased to provide funding for a balanced and factual analysis of the issue to be used by people of faith," says Jim Argue, president of the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas (UMFA). "The loud and angry voices of hate and fear have been well represented in the debate. We hope this documentary will strengthen the voices of compassion and justice."
"The documentary is being developed in an ecumenical fashion, designed for use by the entire church," says Stephen Copley, director of Justice for Our Neighbors in Arkansas and UMFA liaison for the documentary. "There is a deep need to understand what our faith tradition has to say about immigration."
The currently untitled documentary promises to separate myths from facts, examine what the Bible says about treatment of the "stranger," explore the experiences of unauthorized immigrants, and provide handles for Christians to advance the common good.
Documentary interviewees include:
· Anthony Taylor, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock. Soon after becoming bishop in 2008, Taylor's first major statement was on immigration: "A Pastoral Letter on the Human Rights of Immigrants." He illustrates the plight of undocumented immigrants from the perspective of a parish priest and a theologian committed to human rights.
· Ellin Jimmerson, an immigration reform advocate and documentary film producer. Jimmerson's 16-year-old daughter was killed by an intoxicated, undocumented immigrant fleeing police in a high-speed chase. Jimmerson, a member of Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., shares her story and ongoing commitment to immigration reform.
· John Fife and Gene Lefebvre, co-founders of No More Deaths (NMD). These retired Presbyterian ministers founded NMD in 2004. The faith-based organization, headquartered in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, provides medicine, food and water to individuals and families crossing the border with Mexico. Fife and Lefebvre show viewers what happens to migrants in the desert and explain the moral imperative to offer humanitarian aid.
· Miguel De La Torre, a professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. De La Torre, author of "Trails of Hope and Terror," walks the migrant trails, demythologizes the immigration debate and examines what the biblical witness says about the stranger in the land.
· Hector Villanueva, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Rock (The Rock Baptist Church). Villanueva, a legal resident and father of six in rural North Carolina, was arrested in August 2010 after applying for U.S. citizenship. He is under threat of deportation.
· Charles Crutchfield, bishop of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Crutchfield speaks about Methodist congregations that host free legal clinics each month for the undocumented and phone cards for those who are detained.
"When you dig into immigration, you unearth absorbing and sometimes unbelievable stories," says Cliff Vaughn, media producer for EthicsDaily.com. "The stories we've found remind us that complex and controversial 'issues' are finally about people who love their families and want to do what God expects."
The documentary will be released in the summer of 2011. Supplemental resources will also be available at EthicsDaily.com.
Documentary video teasers are available here.
Confirmed documentary funding partners include the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, ChurchNet and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida.
EthicsDaily.com has become a first-tier producer of social justice documentaries.
Its most recent documentaries include: Sacred Texts, Social Duty, which explores how Jewish, Christian and Muslim people of faith in the United States read their sacred texts and interpret their moral teachings about taxation; Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims, which aired in 2010 on more than 130 ABC-TV stations; and Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism, which won the best documentary award at the 2008 International Black Film Festival of Nashville and was nominated for best documentary at the 2009 Black Film Festival of Texas.