Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The One Year Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of The Network for Peace and Justice.  A day that marks the pain of the loss of 7 people murdered, including the son of poet Javier Sicilia.  The 28th of March represents far more than just 7 people.  It represents the entire 60,000+ that have been killed.  It represents the cry of the Mexican people to not have more deaths.  It is a day that the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity calls out to the government, the cartels, and the entire world that they have had enough.  The ache and the tenderness of our hearts are real.  The time for change is now.  We must not wait even one more day.


Below is some text from a pamphlet translated for today that describes four of the seven people whose death inspired this movement to take form.  I will keep my own words short for today, and after the events for today are over, I will write another post for you all to read.  After the article is finished, I put a small prayer for the end of violence.  Peace!

“The young men, together with Juan Francisco Sicilia, were young men without links to drugs, nor were they addicts, nor criminals.  They were students, sons of their families, friends, and brothers. 

Julio C├ęsar, 20 years old, was sophomore in college studying architecture at “La Uninter”.  He played basketball and soccer.  He used to play American football.  He spent time making models and plans, many times his girlfriend would help him.  He was definitely a perfectionist in his jobs.  Until he finished his homework, he wouldn’t do anything else.  He enjoyed riding horses and playing squash.  He was the most athletic of the four.

Luis Antonio, 24 years old, a graduate of Uninter.  He was studying to be a teacher of graphic design and had owned a small business, IDEAS DESIGN, where he worked on these types of issues. He was flirtatious and always was getting to know girls and asking them to sit with him at his table.  He enjoyed dancing a lot.  He enjoyed cooking.  He was a protector, always defending those who felt the most unprotected.

Gabriel (Gabo) was going to start his first day of work this Monday. 

Juan was known by his phrase “This [soccer] ball is on my chest and I don’t know how to move it down to my foot” which means that when someone gets into trouble, another comes to the rescue to save him from the situation.  Juan used glasses with very thick lenses and his friends teased him calling him “little blind boy”.

Julio, Juan, and Luis enjoyed playing soccer and many times organized teams and went to tournaments.

Luis, Gabo and Juan were the same age and the three were inseparable friends.

Luis, Gabo, and Juan loved to play cards and xbox and passed their free time playing it.

The four of them were neighbors on the same street – their houses were side by side to one another.  They were very good friends.  They all like to eat seafood.

The four were far from being without friends and were 4 boys who spent time with their families.  For them their families were very important and because of that, they did many family activities.”


Let us pray for the people of God, the whole human family, and all of creation…

Loving and Merciful God,

We pray that violence be removed from our world,
That we can live a peaceful existence with ourselves and with our neighbors,
That the healing of our old wounds can begin,

We pray for whatever borders or boundaries prevent us from loving one another become celebrated:
Race, gender, nationality, sexuality, age, religion, and any other reason,

We pray that we can turn away from greed for money, lust for power, and desire for war,
And learn to live more simply, with the world as a partner, and work together peacefully.

God, we ask that you teach us these things again that we have forgotten,
Remind us that we are ALL your children
And we are called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Healing our Borders

I have called you each by name; you are mine.

We are over halfway through this Lenten journey.  Each day we move deeper into God’s uncomfortable call of loving each other without border, closer to the pain of the cross, and nearer to the redeeming grace that is shown at Easter.  Part of any Lenten journey is reflection; both of ourselves and our community.  It is a time for prayer and remembering.  It is a time to talk about death.

My last post was a story about water for life.  But today, I will not be talking about living, but about dying.  I will be talking about the death of husbands, sisters, daughters, grandfathers.  I will be talking about the pain of leaving someone behind in the desert; of looking into your son’s eyes and knowing that he will not make it through the next night’s walk.  I will be talking about warm, salty tears that only serve to dehydrate you more.  Not everyone makes it through the desert, but everyone has a name.

Out of every story told to me on the border in Arizona, the one of the most moving and powerful was the prayer vigil in Douglas.  It is a weekly event that is organized by an interfaith group known as “Healing our Borders” as part of their mission to remember and pray for those who have died crossing the border through Cochise county.  Since it happens on the US side of the border, Team Mexico was allowed to participate in the prayer vigil.  

It was around 5pm or so on February 14th that we gathered in the McDonalds parking lot.  We huddled together in the wind while we waited.  Once everything and everyone arrived, we grabbed an old shopping cart –specifically saved for this purpose—and filled it with crosses.  Each cross had a name and two dates.  A birthday and a deathday.  After we loaded up the shopping cart, the process for the vigil was explained to us.  We would begin by grabbing a handful of crosses and forming a line.  Moving toward the border, we would read aloud the names and hold up the cross.  Once the line passed us, we set down our cross onto the curb and moved to the front of the line to read another name and hold up that cross.

A handful of the names:
Luisa Garcia – August 19th, 1958
Alejandro Lopez – March 11th, 1976
Maria de la Conception Reyes – November 12th, 1951
Juan Carlos Martinez – January 6, 1982
Carmen de Leon – July 31st, 2001
Pedro Hernandez – June 7, 1987
Desconocido* – Sept ‘86
Desconocida with her infant daughter – February ‘79
Desconocido – January ‘61
200 more names

(Desconocido, for those of you who don’t know, means unknown)

As we read those names aloud, we called into presence their spirits.  The spirit of who they were as a person, who their family is or was, who their friends were, their desires, the spirit of their life.  Each name and date hold meaning beyond just words and numbers, they represent people with stories and families of their own.  Their death is a tragedy, as are all deaths.  As I read aloud those names, I couldn’t help but picture people from my own community and how important to me they are.  I also tried to imagine what it would be like to not have them in my life anymore.  Each of these people has a community that aches to see them again.  Perhaps you would be willing to try an individual prayer vigil; read aloud the names listed above and think about who they might have been and call into presence the spirit of their life.  

The hardest part for me is thinking about the unknown.  When I read “Desconocido” for the first time, I was taken aback.  Who was this person, how do we know their age, what about their family?  These and many questions went through my head.  The answers were just as scary as the question:  we don’t know.  There are families in Mexico that have no idea what happened to their father, who seemingly just disappeared into the desert.  The woman who was walking with her infant daughter might have a husband living in the US who will never see his wife or daughter again, and will never know what happened to them.  The desert claims these unknown lives as well as other unfound bodies that have been disappeared into the sand.  These “Desconocidos” only made my heart cry out for justice even more.

God calls us each by name.  We are named when we are born and when we are baptized.  It is part of the promise that we are all abundantly loved; and in the naming of one another, we are claimed as children of God.  The people on those crosses may or may not have been baptized by water, but during each of these prayer vigils, they are baptized by sand and called by name one last time and named as part of God’s creation.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Simple Story about Water

When I thought about Arizona and the desert, I was expecting it to be hot during the day and colder at night.  I was wrong.  It was just cold and windy.  Thankfully, I had a sweatshirt, but I still wasn’t willing to brave riding in the back of a truck with 100+ gallons of water through the desert.  So behind the truck, five of us followed in the warm van, watching the volunteers from CREDA and YAGM bounce along slowly through the rough desert trail.  

CRREDA –a Mexican drug and rehab organization—and Aqua para la Vida (a US/Mexican group) work together to leave and maintain water supplies for migrants who are walking through the desert.  Their goal is to try and prevent the deaths of migrants by preventing dehydration during the very long journey.  Initially starting with bottles of water and eventually moving to 55-gallon water barrels, these organizations provide humanitarian aid that is necessary for life.

We were able to accompany CRREDA into the desert and see the process of filling the water barrels.  It was a chilly day, and we brought packed lunches with us to eat.  Almost all of the land along the border is privately owned, but these groups are given special permission to drive through it and put out water barrels.  After stopping to give a hand to the ranch owner with the installation of something –no one had any idea what he was doing, but we helped anyway—we finally arrived to the tank.  CRREDA people went to work immediately, cleaning the tank and then filling it with water.  We waited, watched, and were invited to begin eating our lunches.  I ate standing and trying to keep out of the wind, because it was freezing.

Suddenly, Sara –one of the volunteers—rushed back to the group and told us that there was a group of migrants hiding in a nearby ravine.  Our group guide spoke with them and was able to learn that they were waiting to cross into the United States, but couldn’t go until nightfall.  As we walked by to get back to the van, I noticed there were about 20 of them, huddled together, some with jackets and some without.  It must have been awful sitting there with nothing to do but wait.  

Without the water that CRREDA provided, these migrants would have likely begun their journey dehydrated.  Even though the air was cold, it was still very dry.  Waiting the entire day likely meant that they would have drunk all the water they brought with them, only to begin walking the several days journey north.    Who knows what would have awaited them?

Regardless of your feelings on the legality of what they were doing, migrants are still people, and do not deserve to die.  By offering this humanitarian aid and basic necessity of life, water, these organizations save lives of the men, women, and children that wander through the desert.  It is never wrong to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked.  In fact, it is our call to do so; even if it gets in the way of our political ideology.  God makes it clear that our neighbors are to be loved, so as we continue our Lenten journey, let us not ever forget who we are:  dust and loved.

I confess that I’ve missed the mark.  I have not loved you with all my heart, soul, and mind.  I certainly have not loved my neighbors the way you have shown to do.  Many days I don’t even love myself.  I'm sorry I put obeying rules and regulations over loving others.  I’m sorry I leaned toward the law and not towards love.  Show me how to love more freely; others, myself, and you.