Faith and Forced Migration

May, 1980. The moment was approaching.

June 7, 1980, time of war, exodus and crossings. We were forced to walk across borders imposed by the colonizers. Archbishop Romero and many other holy people had already left. The signs of the times brought confusion. What to do? Whom to follow? What path should we take? Any course involved risk, loss, pain, tears, uncertainty, and for thousands, even death.

The light of hope was quickly fading. We faced a daily struggle to keep the flame alive. Although the body wavered, and the spirit was stifled and choked, still we did not succumb. The compassionate hand of the Great Spirit manifested itself in the open doors of the neighboring country. It was difficult, but we arrived in a new land. Although at that time I did not understand, I realize now that this was all part of the theological courage of a prophetic people and its saintly leader.  Our family was forced to leave El Salvador in June 1980. We sought and found refuge in Costa Rica, a country where the family spent five years as “refugees in transit.”

Today, 31 years later, I still experience immense rage over the painful exodus and journeys of millions of migrants who continue the journey, forced out of their territories by conflict, violence, poverty and climate change. The killings and kidnappings in Mexico of thousands of migrants from Central and South America between 2010 and 2011 prompted this reflection. On June 24, 2011 alone, 131 Central American migrants were kidnapped. This included 46 Salvadorans, 40 Hondurans, 41 Guatemalans and 4 Nicaraguans.[1]

Media reports indicate that at least 40,000 people have died in the last four years in Mexico and it is estimated that more than 8,000 migrants are missing. Authorities in Mexico accuse organized crime of carrying out the kidnapping and killings of migrants. But human right defenders and faith and community leaders are concerned about the complicity and corruption of the Mexican army and police. A Salvadoran on-line paper reported that “High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay … expressed dismay at the ‘appalling abuses’ committed in Mexico by organized crime and concern about ‘increasing reports’ of abuses by state forces.”[2] How long will we have to bear witness? How many more deaths will occur before we finally have compassion? When will we recognize that the pain of one is the pain of all and the happiness of one is the happiness of all?

It is time to understand that forced migration is also a product of the devastation of Mother Earth. People across the globe are being forced to leave their land and territories to survive and exercise their right to make a living. As people of faith, we must acknowledge that to save the human species, we must save Mother Earth. Ultimately, any affront to Mother Earth and her children is an affront to the Creator. 31 years later and thousands of migrants still must endure risk, loss, pain, tears, uncertainty, and death. Think about it. What will it take to speak the truth and to stand in solidarity with mother earth and the migrants in our midst?



Filed in: Migrant Justice, Spirited Reflections


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