Advent, Human Rights and International Migrants Day
December is full of important historical events and reasons to reflect and celebrate. In December, the churches celebrate Advent, and the birth of Jesus. December 10 is International Human Rights Day. December 18 is International Migrants Day.
On December 1, the first Sunday of Advent, I found myself participating in the first ever Ecumenical Dialogue of The Americas on Faith, Economy and Migrations. This historic event, in Quito, Ecuador, was an inspiring, ecumenical celebration with many sisters and brothers of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI). Forty-seven participants representing 17 communions and 18 ecumenical organizations from 11 countries in the Americas gathered at the Catholic Retreat Center “Verbo Divino” to discuss theologically the connections between economy and migrations in the Americas. All participants, even those born in Ecuador, have experienced migration in some way.
The discussions touched me at a personal level. They took me back in time and brought back memories of the “journey” when I had to leave my native El Salvador and even farther back when my father left to pursue a dream only to become an “illegal” migrant in the USA. It hit me harder than I could have anticipated, as I reflected on the fact that I had not seen one of my brothers in 30 years. These are the intersections of migration and economy. Broken up and separated families. To this day, and this was reaffirmed in the Quito ecumenical dialogue, I cannot accept the notion of a human being, the image of God, as “illegal”. There is so much room for improvement in laws and legal systems.
Andres Alba, a young Lutheran from Colombia who participated in the dialogue in Quito, summarized our discussion this way:
“Every human being, image of God, has the right to mobility. To assert this right, in a world of forced migration produced by economic models of capital accumulation and imperialist law – which denies the image of God present in every human being stigmatizing and labeling people as “illegal” – is prophetic. It is prophetic to denounce the injustice where states from the north diminish the dignity of human beings based on the possession of (or lack of) papers, ethnicity and work capacity. It is prophetic to announce that another world is possible and to challenge communities, including communities of faith, to be spaces of intercultural recognition and advocacy in the fight against anti-immigration laws.” 
It is encouraging in this time of Advent to know that people of faith across this continent affirm the right of people to migrate. These are brothers and sisters living by the word of God which says:
“…I was a stranger and you invited me in…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 31 46
These words and actions are encouraging, but we must not forget that the dreams of migrants workers are being crushed by unjust laws that violate the dignity of creation despite the migrants’ inherent likeness of God. 
During this season of Advent, look for the spirit in the faces and stories of migrant workers, and in their families which, like Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, are forced by unjust economic models and law systems to leave their place of birth.
Andrés Alba, Program Coordinator of Human Rights Diakonia of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
Colombia (IELCO) and co-coordinator of the ACT Forum Colombia.