Christ in the Humanitarian Crisis

Indianapolis church cages Holy Family in immigration protest


 This Tuesday, July 3, 2018 photo shows statues of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in a cage of fencing topped with barbed wired on the lawn of Monument Circle’s Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis. The statues were erected to protest the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. (Ebony Cox/The Indianapolis Star via AP) Photo Credit: AP

How many children have been returned?

I will continue to ask this haunting question until we start seeing some proofs of reunions. I ask it weekly and invite readers to join asking the Secretary for Health and Human Services, One difficulty of the current situation in refugee detention camps is the refusal to allow the press, aid workers, even some Congress people access. But knowing the narcissism of this administration, they’d trumpet a return. So far, little.

Tens of thousands of people marched around the country Saturday, protesting the criminalization of those doing what any of us would do: simply seeking to flee dreadful violence and protect their children’s lives. At the Berkeley rally I attended, Rev. Ben McBride led us in the moving chant, “Let my people go! Let the children go!” He told us how he and 400 other faith leaders marched on the Otay Mesa detention center near San Diego and called out through megaphones to refugees inside: “No estas solo” (“You are not alone”). The prisoners responded by banging on the walls, then were threatened by guards that their meals would be cut off if they continued.

It’s not a time to lose hope or place blame, but as Ignacio Ellacuria SJ said in El Salvador before his martyrdom, “When the violence increases, we must pray harder.” I’ve been trying to pray the Buddhist “tonglen” for the children and their parents, inhaling their pain, anxiety, and anguish, exhaling, peace, joy and hope. It’s harder, too, but I also pray for those with decision-making power, that they might move quickly and efficiently towards resolution, before the psychic damage to the children worsens. My mantras have been:

Christ in the crying children

God of detention centers

I read with new understanding Fr. Richard Rohr’s words, “The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with all the pain of the world.” There in the caged and frightened child, Christ. There in the parent who tried to protect but only endangered, Christ. There, even in the guards enforcing a policy they never designed, Christ. In the Beatitudes, Jesus praised those who weep. They hold the sadness, don’t try to escape or deny it.

Meanwhile, we keep up unrelenting pressure on our elected officials. We refuse cynicism and hold onto hope. Some escaped Egypt; some will be reunited. As I looked around at the ragtag band of protesters, powerless but committed, I remembered the hobbits, those small heroes who never intended to make dramatic change, but were catapaulted into a war against evil. A description of them, and perhaps us:

“Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do then because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring, p. 283

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