In the City of Angels, many Christians from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe regularly attend church. Even though they all look to the Bible for answers, their views on immigration are as diverse as how they worship God.
Lovy Longomba is answering God’s call by pastoring Revelation Church, a Christian non-denominational church made up of immigrants from around the world.
“I think that what people – we need to do, is find ways to help those who are in need in ways that actually protect people in the country also. I think it’s not wise to try to save the world while your own house is drowning,” said Longomba.
Born in Kenya of Congolese parents, Longomba is a permanent resident in the United States and plans to apply for U.S. citizenship soon. Longomba, however, has undocumented family, so for him, immigration is a complicated, but also personal, topic.
Longomba said the U.S. needs immigration reform, which includes a better way of screening people who want to enter the country.
“That’s why the Bible talks about discernment, the ability to know. OK, who is this? What is it that they want? Cause you can be compassionate in a foolish way,” Longomba said.
Rule of law
In the Byzantine-Latino Quarter of Los Angeles, immigrants from Latin America and Greece worship in neighboring churches – in an area known for drugs and crime. John Bakas, Dean of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, has been working with gangs in the area to bring peace and business development to the largely Latino neighborhood.
“I’m a legal immigrant from Greece with my family. We waited three years and we were sponsored here. This is ages ago, and so we came through the process. It was difficult,” said Bakas, who sees a clear distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.
“You hear people saying we’re against immigrants. No, no, no, no, no! Many in our congregation are immigrants. The point being is that they need to be legal immigrants.”
Bakas said without laws there would be anarchy.
“Is Christian love and compassion meaning abdicating some order some control? Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor,’ but he wasn’t meaning someone from 3,000 miles away. He was talking in the context of the tribal unit. He was talking in the context of loving those who are unlovable, like the lepers and others who had physical and other psychological difficulties,” Bakas said.
Compassion for all
Francisco Garcia, the son of an undocumented immigrant, is the priest of Holy Faith Episcopal Church. He says the U.S. can and should help everyone in need.
“As a nation, we could be that place that really does say, “Welcome, and we will do everything that we can to welcome you and to help you because I think it’s our humanity.” Garcia said, “We need to cooperate amongst nations but with the spirit and the ethic of understanding why people migrate.”
Garcia does not like the terms “legal” and “illegal immigration.”
“I don’t necessarily make those distinctions that people make because I understand that it is very difficult. People like to say, “Well, you need to get in line. You got to do this and if you just follow the right pathways you would get this.” That works for a small percentage of people. In reality for most, it doesn’t work,” Garcia said.
Longomba sums it up as a matter of personal experience. “…everybody is in a different side of the spectrum. Somebody who’s born in America who has known only to be in this land, which is very blessed, probably one of the most blessed nations that I’ve ever been in, will look at it differently. And those who have friends who are immigrants will look at it differently, so it is such a complex situation,” he said.