Continents Apart: Same Pain – Shared Hope

When I first set foot in Manila, Philippines in 2008 to participate in the 1st International Assembly of Migrant and Refugees (IAMR), I noticed the similarity between the Philippines and Latin America with their common history of colonialism and extreme poverty that forces our peoples to migrate.

freight train immigration

In November 2010, I met again with brothers and sisters from the Philippines, this time in Mexico City to participate in the ecumenical consultation “Churches Witnessing with Migrants” and the 3rd International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR3) . Confirming what I had observed two years earlier, the Filipino delegates said “Mexico is like Manila”.

Sr. Maureen Catabian, a Religious of the Good Shepherd, and member of the delegation of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, has since reflected in writing on the Mexico experience. She titles it, The God of the Tent vs. The God of the Empire. Her reflection touches on my own experience.

Sr. Maureen writes, “While in solidarity with the migrants and refugees from various parts of the globe, I met the God of the Tent.  A tent is a collapsible shelter of material stretched and supported by poles. It connotes movement. A journey in transition. Temporary and open to unforeseen events and changes.  Resilient and flexible.  It is a refuge of welcome and rest in a perilous and uncertain journey”. Reading Sr. Maureen’s reflection reassures me that I am not alone in experiencing the pain of seeing migrant workers being abused and risking their lives in pursuit of a better and dignified life.

Sr. Silvia Conde of the Conference of Religious Institutes in Mexico and host of the ecumenical consultation Churches Witnessing with Migrants, proposes that “migrants are modern day prophets”.

“As prophets” said Javier Ulloa, a Pastor of the Baptist Seminar of Mexico, “They are called to preach a message of hope in a context of threats, enslavement and deportations”. Sr. Silvia further suggests that “we are here to become migrants among the migrants” and that “Churches cannot remain silence about this human reality.”  She spoke of “a beautiful manifestation of love and compassion, a new way of doing Theology”, expressed in the love, compassion and solidarity of the “MATRONAS” (Patroness), as the ordinary Mexican women who come to the train tracks and throw bags of bread and water bottles for the migrants are known.

But in God of the Tent Vs. The God of the Empire, Sr. Maureen also reflects on how in Mexico she also met the God of the Empire. She writes, “I also met the god of the Empire. Propped by mammon and corporate greed.  It connotes a Fortress.  Symbolizing grandeur and entrenchment. With tightly guarded borders, controlled and secured by armed military because of the need to protect “property”. I have seen the god of the Empire from a distance.  It glitters in elegance but refuses to allow people to come near it lest its security be jeopardized”.

This juxtaposition of goodness and evil, calls us to see both in our midst and to commit ourselves to confront empire, enter God’s tent and invite others in as well. I invite you to read the full text of “The God of the Tent vs.  The God of the Empire” at:

Filed in: Migrant Justice, Spirited Reflections


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