The theme of the March/April 2019 Christian Leader is contemporary issues in the church and world. In this issue you’ll encounter topics such as women in pastoral ministry, reaching out to the “Nones” and “Dones,” human trafficking and technology.
Another contemporary issue facing our world is that of migration. At the end of January, I had the opportunity to participate in a South Texas border tour with Mennonite Central Committee, where I collected stories that gave me a broader perspective on migration, and my eyes were opened to the complexities of the situation.
But where to begin?
Do I tell of the young mother from Mexico who shakes as she stands before the judge in federal court, her hands shackled with a large chain encircling her waist? She crossed the border to see her children in Brownsville, she says, and sobs as she leaves the room.
Do I tell of the child at the Catholic Charities RGV Humanitarian Respite Center for asylum seekers? A mask hangs loosely across her face, and mucus drains from her nose. She coughs uncontrollably, then vomits.
Do I tell of our visit to Reynosa—one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, where drug trafficking and competition between cartels cause violence? Pastors there tell us of a young man who was fatally shot on his way to church, mistaken for someone else by gang members.
Do I tell of the price people pay? Cartels charge a fee for crossing their turf, and one person may pay as much as $10,000 to hire a coyote smuggler to guide his or her journey. In a visit to the South Texas Human Rights Center, we hear about those who pay the ultimate price. In Brooks County alone, more than 750 migrant deaths have been recorded in the last 14 years.
And here I sit in the comfort of my apartment.
Is this a comprehensive list of stories? Certainly not. There are more layers to add. Prior to the trip, it was easy to dismiss the border situation as something happening “far away.” But when a person goes and sees, putting faces and names to stories, it changes things. Now, at least, I desire to be more informed. I’m asking more questions: What drives people to leave their homes? What can we do about organized crime—both the fear of violence causing people to flee and the funding of cartels by migrants who cross cartel territory. What are the barriers to legal immigration? And what is my responsibility, now that I’ve seen?
More than anything, this trip caused me to see the humanitarian nature of a complex situation involving real people with names and stories. Everyone—from migrant to border patrol agent, federal judge to asylum seeker—is a person, loved by God. Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear?
And, as we listen, can we seek to understand where people are coming from—
whether across borders, across neighborhoods or across the street—and work for the good of God’s children everywhere?