Gathering inspires questions, brainstorming, action
Mennonite World Conference release by Danielle Gonzales
“The Bible invites us to remember that the people of Israel were also strangers; they were captives and were deported,” says Carlos Martínez, Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México. “The [early] Anabaptists were also discriminated against. And we have part of this living story among with our sisters and brothers in Chihuahua.”
Martínez was among 21 Anabaptist leaders gathered from different parts of Mexico for a conference of Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren churches in Mexico March 23-24, 2017, to focus on a biblical response to caring for the vulnerable in their midst: migrants. The conference reflected on Matthew 1:16-23 and 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9-10.
Conversations turned toward the discrimination and harsh conditions migrants face during their journey. Mexico City is a passage place for migrants both headed to cross the border into the U.S. and deported from it. Many migrants experience assault from border patrol agents from both governments, sexual violence, loss of work, exploitation from the drug cartels, harsh terrains as they travel and discrimination.
“There are many groups of migrants, but the one that has grown has been indigenous migrants. In Oaxaca, they live on the periphery and in extreme poverty. The Mexican government wants to make them invisible,” says Leslie Ocampo, Iglesia Cristiana de Paz en México A.R.
Compelled by the needs of migrants, Anabaptist churches convened this conference with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to learn how to respond effectively and in partnership with each other. MCC is an inter-Mennonite agency that provides peace, relief and development in the name of Christ.
“In Matamoros, the church doesn't have the infrastructure to offer employment [to migrants],” says Jesús Garza, Conferencia Cristiana Anabautista Menonita. “There are many churches, but no work is being done in this area. This is really sad because there is no coordination to offer support to migrants.”
Determined to find ways to respond biblically, participants turned their questions into brainstorming and action.
“Children have to leave school to work in the street. We are working on literacy programs for the migrant children,” says Sandra Plett, part of the MB Mission team in Guadalajara, Mexico. MB Mission is the global mission agency of North American Mennonite Brethren.
“Puebla is a gateway for migrants. We are thinking of setting up a guest house and perhaps creating temporary jobs,” says Mario López, Ministerio Integral de Iglesias Anabautistas de Puebla.
Several participants called attention to learning about the root causes of migration. “Preparing for the subject is key. We need to have knowledge of the causes,” says Martínez. “One possible teaching tool could be to design a training course for delegates from the churches and conferences.”
Stories from Genesis to Revelation featuring people in the midst of migration from homelessness to home “challenge us, as the church to respond to injustice despite stirring controversy,” concluded conference participants in a closing document. “The texts demand us to respond to a higher law than that created by human governments. We are called to the law of love, especially in the light of Christ’s life. Is the church ready to pay the price for love?”
Participants included the following:
- Conferencia Cristiana Anabautista Menonita: Juan Jesús Garza Ruiz
- Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México: Ruhama Pedroza and Carlos Martínez
- Conferencia Evangélica Anabautista “Misión y Esperanza” (Veracruz): John Wall and María De Jesús Gómez Aguila
- Conferencia Evangélica Misionera de México (Chihuahua): Adrián Ramos, Juan Carlos Véjar Gómez
- Conferencia Menonita de México (Chihuahua): Ruben Dyck, Johan Klassen
- Conferencia Menonita de México (Iglesia Anabautista Menonita Unida de México): Isaak Bergen Thiessen
- Conferencia Misionera Evangélica (Chihuahua): Leonard Plett and Heinrich Rempel
- Iglesia Cristiana de Paz en México A.R.: Sandra Plett and Leslie Ocampo (Mennonite Brethren)
- Mennonite Central Committee: Erica VanEssendelft, Fernando Sandoval and Oscar Benavides Calvachi
- Mennonite Missions Network: Fernando Pérez Ventura and Rebeca González Torres
- Ministerio Integral de Iglesias Anabautistas de Puebla: Mario López and Leticia Hernández
- Mujeres por la Paz: Helena Sánchez
- Rector de la Comunidad Teológica de México: Dan González
MWC Photo: Maria de Jesús Gómez Aguilar sharing the experiences workings with migrants in the Mennonite church in Veracruz, Mexico. Photos: Oscar B. Calvachi.