Promised Lands: Intersecting Race, Religion, and Sexuality in an Age of Migrations

Starr King School for the Ministry’s 10 Years of MASC anniversary celebrations continued into December with an event featuring Dr. Hugo Cordova Quero, the school’s Director of Online Education and Adjunct Faculty member. On a visit from Buenos Aires, Dr. Cordova Quero was able to reconnect with “Starr King family” for the first time in nearly a decade! After catching up over dinner with MASC graduates, staff, and faculty, he took the podium to discuss the intersecting roles of race, religion, and sexuality in modern migratory patterns. “Promised lands,” he explained, are the places where the hopes and dreams of im/migrants are tested against reality.

“The 21st century is a time of migration,” Dr. Cordova Quero began, referring to a slide depicting movements of people among various nations. Many of the largest migrations do not touch the United States, he noted. The idea that every im/migrant wants to come to the United States was just one of the common myths dispelled that evening.

Our featured speaker went on to discuss challenges faced by immigrants, drawing upon both personal experience as an immigrant and historical evidence — from European imperialism to post-9/11 airport security. The “paranoid politics” with which many im/migrants are met, he explained, renders “the other” as a suspect. For many nations, granting rights to im/migrants is a “concession of power.”

Another challenge facing im/migrants is the way in which the local society constructs their identities, Dr. Cordova Quero said. Local constructions of race, religion, gender, and sexuality are not always embraced by im/migrants. For example, women and children are commonly seen as “appendages” to men. In most cases, those who do not fit the heteronormative worldview are “completely out of the picture,” and coming out of the closet is akin to committing “social suicide” in a new life.

Religious spaces, however, can both strengthen and hinder im/migrants on their journey to a new life, Dr. Cordova Quero acknowledged. While some are demonized or persecuted for their beliefs, others find solace within religious institutions. Religious organizations offer spaces for immigrant communities to come together for social and emotional support, and serve as the “focal point of spiritual life.”

In closing, Dr. Cordova Quero emphasized the need to break the “cycle of separation” and embrace “the others” as brothers and sisters. “Only that will bring justice.”