Three Iowa religious groups separately launched educational campaigns to promote national immigration reform with an eye toward fostering greater acceptance of immigrants.

Nuns from 10 religious communities in the Upper Mississippi River Valley paid for signs in six Iowa cities to share a verse from the Gospel of Matthew - "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" - substituting "an immigrant" for "a stranger."

The Iowa Mennonite School announced that it will hold assorted activities to analyze the social and economic impact of the December 2006 and May 2008 massive immigration raids carried out in Marshalltown and Postville, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church called upon its congregations to devote time during Lent to studying the immigration issue, specifically the manner in which immigrants are treated and should be treated.
The nuns' initiative was coordinated by Sister Johanna Rickl, vice president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport.

Rickl explained in a communiqué that the decision to pay for the signs to share the biblical verse was made in response to the need to "reverse the abuses of civil and human rights" that occurred during the 2006 and 2008 immigration raids.

The signs have been placed at strategic intersections in Quad Cities, Des Moines, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Clinton.

According to Rickl, the nuns are already preparing a new campaign to oppose the federal Secure Communities program to identify immigrants with criminal records.

The Iowa Mennonite School in Kalona asked its students in Spanish class to participate recently in a "simulation" in which some students were declared undocumented and prevented from coming to the class.

Some students were "detained" in the administrative offices, others had to sign forms in Spanish without understanding what they were signing and others were allowed to return to class, but they were warned that they could be removed from the classroom at any time.

The participants in the simulation will share their experiences on Sunday, Jan. 22, during a community meeting organized by the Mennonites to speak about the "disastrous effects on families and children" of the raids in Iowa.

In addition, the Iowa Conference Immigration Task Force reported that a group of Methodist pastors created a biblical study on immigration so that the congregations can use it during the Lenten season.

The study lasts six weeks and focuses on analyzing how the Bible's stories about hospitality are connected with the current situation of immigrants.

According to the Census, 3.8 percent of Iowa's 3 million residents are foreigners.

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