It is hard to put into words what we experienced this past week in El Paso as we put our bodies in a place that is groaning under the weight of injustice. Our lament began with "the practice of relocation, taking our very bodies to the hard places and tarrying long enough to be disturbed."[Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing]
And disturbed we were.
Children in cages. Ripped out of the arms of their parents and caregivers to be locked up in squalid conditions with overcrowding, filth, scabies, lice, and abuse. Forced to drink water from toilets and sleep on cement floors, without access to showers or human decency. We heard stories of children ripping out the laces of their shoes and considering hanging themselves. And in the last six months, seven children have died.
It's too much. It's simply too much to bear.
As we placed our feet on this grieving soil and resolutely marched around the barbed wire fences and cement walls of the detention center, we felt the heaviness of tyranny. As we stood at the gates crying out and beseeching the powers on earth and in heaven for justice, our bodies bowed in solidarity with the groans of those within on hunger strike. And the signs we carried in the shape of tombstones with names and ages of many more who have died here became oppressively heavy. How is this evil being perpetrated without any oversight or accountability?
Rev. Dr. Robin Tanner words reverberating from the night before, “Here at the threshold between nation states, in the beauty and injustice across the borderlands, I say so goes the borderlands, so goes the world. This is the holy site of our collective moral awakening as a country. From every granule of sand to the winds that sweep El Paso, we must answer: Who will America be?”
I know this is heavy. Know I am not without fierce and stubborn hope. And certainly, there will be a call to action.
But first, first, we must feel the weight of this moment.
Citing that his father was a migrant, Imam Omar Suleiman offered an impassioned rebuke of the treatment of migrant children and families: “Our faiths are on trial. As a Muslim, I believe in Jesus — peace be upon him. I believe in Abraham — peace be upon him. I believe in Moses — peace be upon him. [Now let’s put this in context for a moment] Jeff Sessions used verses from the Bible to separate those children from their families. Donald Rumsfeld used verses of the Bible to justify the bombing of innocent children in Iraq. Verses from the Bible and the Koran have too often been used to hurt rather than uplift. If you say that Jesus is in your heart, but you would put him in a cage today, you are a hypocrite. If you say that you believe in Moses, but you would let him drown, you are a hypocrite. If you say you that believe in Abraham, and that you are following in the footsteps of Abraham, but you would turn him away from these borders, you are a hypocrite. It is not the humanity of these people that’s on trial; it is our humanity.”
This is more than thoughts and prayers, more than even aid and relief for the immigrant. This is about us. Our humanity. Who do we want to be and what kind of America do we want to be?
And God help us, what kind of Christians do we want to be?
“There is a text that says when God called Ezekiel in the midst of the exile, he told Ezekiel to lay down for seven days in front of the people (Ezekiel 4:4),” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach. “I’ve studied the scripture and as I have looked at it, I have come to understand that the reason Ezekiel was instructed to lay down in front of the people, was because he had to feel and pay attention to the experience of the people so the prophetic word he spoke articulated their audible moans and groans. In this way, our voice isn’t just ours alone. We are responsible for amplifying the voices of people who are struggling, and this includes our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
And so this week, I encourage you to lay down. Lay down until you feel the groans of our suffering siblings. Lay down until you hear their audible moans.
This weighty moment begins with lament.
WATCH LIVE STREAM
Moral Monday Day of Action | July 29
MORNING JOE ON MSNBC
Rev. Barber brings Moral Monday to El Paso
"It Doesn't Have to Be This Way": Faith Leaders Rally at Detention Center Demanding End to Inhumane Treatment of Immigrants
"We condemn and call evil and unjust the caging of people, the making people drink from toilets, the refusal to even give them a toothbrush," the group continued. "You're holding angels in this place. But you will not hold them forever. We join them now, and not only do we bring condemnation, but we bring hope. It doesn't have to be this way. America, turn around. America, repent. America, stop. America, change your ways."
OP ED - JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE
The Family Values We Need at the Border
“This is not simply a partisan disagreement about immigration policy. It is a moral crisis that forces each of us to decide who we are. Either we accept the demonization of black and brown immigrants that assumes God has ordained white American culture as superior. Or we act now to demand that the Trump administration end its war on immigrant families.”
EL PASO TIMES
Faith Leaders Head Protests Against Treatment of Migrants at Moral Monday in El Paso
Our own Stephanie Drury was cited, "I just can't handle that children are dying in custody," protester Stephanie Drury, 44, of the Vineyard Christian community in Seattle, said about her reason to come to El Paso. "It makes everything more real," Drury said of her trip to the border. "It's eyeopening to see what's happening. You can't turn off the news and distract yourself and pretend it's not happening."
RED LETTER CHRISTIANS
Who Will America Be?
“What we saw at the border was damnable. As people of faith, we are called to welcome the immigrant as our family,” Rev. Dr. Barber concluded. “We need Christians to rise up and challenge theological malpractice that allows people to look the other way and not challenge injustice.”
MORE ABOUT DETENTION
▪This past year, 900 children have been detained (in spite of promises to end family separation last summer).
▪An average of 2,000 children every month are unaccompanied children in custody awaiting placement in detention centers and shelters.
▪According to lawmakers, we have a “broken” and "horrifying" system of immigration detention at the nation's southern border where women in one cell were allegedly told to drink water from a toilet.
▪For-profit detention centers run by The GEO Group and CoreCivic benefiting from bodies in cages and Border Patrol expanding without oversight are regularly in violation of International Human Rights and Constitutional Rights.
▪ The 'Remain in Mexico' Program is dangerous, cruel and chaotic. It puts migrants in grave danger. El Paso is one of the safest cities in America while Juarez is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
▪ The President's declaration of a national emergency was an abuse of power, yet strategic as it is the only reason the military can be deployed on American soil.
▪ Our Southern border is the third militarized border in the world although terrorists are a non-issue while our Northern border is not militarized even though there have been accounts of terrorists crossing.