Let us then try what Love will do – William Penn
For the past few months, I have been led to show up, sometimes in person, sometimes in prayer, to a number of “Jericho Walks” supporting those members of our communities facing imminent deportation.
I’m not quite sure how we got here, in this “Christian” nation of ours. Christ says to welcome the stranger. These folks are not even strangers to many of us – they are woven into the fabric of our shared communities, their families, their work and service in the world, and their blessings.
I understand immigration is a deeply broken system, and needs to be attended to in real ways. I understand that in some areas, large amounts of refugees can unduly burden our systems of support. We choose, as a society, which “burdens” we will shoulder. Life itself, illness, housing, vocations, day-to-day survival all have the ability to be ranked in value. Sometimes it feels as if we must do this – to pick and choose where our hearts lie.
I don’t think it’s possible to do this piecemeal longer. It’s not just a particular person’s fate, or punishment for their choices that results in their circumstance. Systemic racism and poverty, effects of climate change, we are all connected in an active role beyond more complacency. Many of these people have fled countries and dire circumstances created by US policies abroad.
On this particular day in Springfield, people of faith and local communities of support gathered to ask for justice for Lucio Perez. Lucio has been in sanctuary at the First Congregational Church of Amherst for over 175 days. On this particular day, friends had amassed over 1000 letters calling for Lucio’s safety, and attempted to deliver them to authorities in Springfield. We prayed, we sang, we marched. We laid hand upon and blessed the letters, we heard the story from Lucio’s wife Dora of how hard this has been, and of her unwavering faith that those who hear Lucio’s story will continue to do the right thing. It was particularly heartbreaking when the clergy delegation carrying the letters returned, with the letters dismissed and not accepted. They were deemed to “dangerous”. The letters will also now be mailed.
For me, this was yet another long walk around a government building. For months, an interfaith group has gathered at the Manchester Courthouse, in vigil for immigrant rights. This vigil often shows up to hold in prayer and support those who have been required to show up at an ICE check in, with direct and probable future deportation (they are often asked to bring a plane ticket already booked with them to their “country of origin – sometimes a place they have not ever know). They are accompanied by family, by children who they may never see again. Many face almost certain death if they “return” to a county the have not resided in since their childhood. They do now know the language, the culture – and are sent with only the clothes on their backs. There is much weeping and frustration. In these times, it’s easy for me to imagine how Jesus’ followers must have felt when he was taken away to be crucified.
For now, I’ll keep showing up, and telling this story. I feel helpless sometimes, but I am clear this witness is just a part of a wider call that is growing and being heard. I pray that we as a society will hear that need for our most vulnerable, beloved children of God who are our neighbors.
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