The speed at which social changes occur often leave theologians, scholars of religion, and church communities unable to respond in ways that are relevant to the current sociopolitical climate. The present context of increased targeted xenophobia—inside and outside the USA, of unmitigated racism which frequently characterizes entire communities as criminals, terrorists, or social threats, has conspired to create an environment of fear, heightened surveillance, and strategic sociopolitical maneuvering. Against this backdrop, targeted communities seek to resist oppression, marginalization, and discrimination. This strongly negative sociopolitical climate has failed to silence the impacted communities including Muslims, African Americans, and LatinaXos, among others. Instead, it has proven to be a fertile ground for multiple faith communities and individuals across the USA to come together to work to ameliorate the situation of many racialized people facing discrimination or deportation. At this critical historical juncture, this issue of Perspectivas is honored to include essays from multiple different academic, ministerial, and activist perspectives by varying scholars of religion and theology in their own attempt at responding to the present sociopolitical configuration faced by LatinaXo communities. The articles that follow and the presentations from a roundtable conversation showcase the rich creativity and relevance to these issues among scholars of religion and theology.
In the first article, Lloyd Barba and Tatyana Castillo-Ramos demonstrate how, in this most inhospitable social climate, church communities rise up prophetically in response to the present anti-immigrant policies in the United States of America. Their work traces the early emergence and development of the Sanctuary Movement during the 1980s which was spearheaded by church communities emboldened in their stance against policies that force individuals to risk their lives in the attempt to cross the USA-Mexico border. Barba and Castillo-Ramos aid us in understanding the level of engagement and commitment by entire church communities, counties, and municipalities in their attempt to create sanctuary spaces safe for undocumented immigrants. After a brief lull, they remind us, the movement seems to have regained energy with new strategies and actors involved since 2007, and a new label, the New Sanctuary Movement. But the authors also show the contested nature of the notion of “Sanctuary” and the multiple legal, social, political, and faith implications of its adoption by church communities, cities, counties, and municipalities. Crucial to this essay is the awareness of the growing involvement of LatinaXo church communities in Sanctuary efforts.
In the second article, Rodolfo Estrada III comes to us with a New Testament perspective. His biblical interpretive approach addresses the challenges and concerns faced by the DREAMER (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) generation, also known as those included in the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration policy. Drawing on his Pentecostal tradition of understanding the Holy Spirit as active in the world, he takes the Johannine notion of the paraclete as it appears in Jesus’ farewell speech, as a theological cue for engaging in advocacy for undocumented children. His aim is to apply a pneumatological approach in support of socio–political engagement and in order to articulate a model for LatinaXos to think about advocacy for DREAMERS and other undocumented children and youth among LatinaXo communities. With a prophetic voice, Estrada III interprets the notion of paraclete in the gospel of John to elucidate a distinct divine act of protection for the vulnerable and marginalized DREAMERS.
Philip Wingeier-Rayo takes on the question of LatinaXo sociopolitical activism, in the third essay. In view of the fact that LatinaXos have become the largest ethnic minoritized group in the USA, he raises questions as to how LatinaXos can, in this new context of enormous discrimination, come together to organize in order to effect social change for the benefit of LatinaXo communities. He points out that the demographic growth among LatinaXos has not translated into increased political power and mobilization. Moreover, the mobilization in places where LatinaXo workers are in the majority, and with substantial population of DREAMERS, has not resulted in lasting immigration reforms so needed by many LatinaXos. In light of this reality, Wingeier-Rayo explores social justice activism in African American communities in the search of models from which LatinaXos can learn as they engage in social justice activism in their own contexts. He is not oblivious to the multiple hurdles LatinaXos communities have to face due to their internal ethnocultural, historical, and religious diversity. Nevertheless, he is able to look into the future, to the emergence of a larger social movement that will cut across ethnoracial background. In such a social movement, he predicts, LatinaXos must play a central role and constitute a key piece of the puzzle for social justice due to their sheer numbers.
These three papers are followed by a roundtable conversation organized by La Comunidad of Hispanic Scholars for Religion this past November (2018). The meeting took place in Denver, Colorado, as part of the American Academy of Religion conference. At that meeting, La Comunidad invited three scholars to reflect on the academic legacy and contribution to the field of hermeneutics of Professor Fernando S. Segovia, in relation to the recent phenomenon of “Fake News.” We are honored that the three presentations are published in this issue of Perspectivas and that the President of La Comunidad, Professor Loida Martell-Otero, has written a brief editorial introduction. Together these roundtable discussions provide readers with a sampling of the richness of this conversation and a celebration of Professor Segovia’s work.
We, the team at Perspectivas, hope that this issue proves resourceful for LatinaXo scholars interested in some of the developments discussed in the papers here contained. Migration and sanctuary, LatinaXo biblical approaches to the question of DREAMERS, and the intersection between marginalization and social activism are pressing issues in today’s increasingly xenophobic reality. As shown here, LatinaXos scholars are the forefront of those debates.