Sunday, December 26, 2010

School of the Americas Vigil 2010

by Rev. Don Coleman

On the weekend of November 19-21, 2010 over 5,000 gathered at the gate of Fort Benning demonstrating against the School of Americas (SOA) or, as it is renamed, the Western Hemispheric Institute of  National Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).  Hundreds of thousands of people from Central and South America have been brutally tortured and killed by their own governments trained by U.S. military at Fort Benning.

Speeches and singing and the drama of large puppets made the event festive in the midst of the serious business of working to close the School which, because of its mission, is still called “the School of the Assassins.”  For twenty years folks have come from all over the country, and now from Central and South America, mobilizing to stop these barbarous activities.  Actually, a former military officer was refused a visa because he intended to speak at the rally.

Participants are disappointed that President Obama has not taken a more active role in investigating the activities of the School.  And now with the new Congress closing down the SOA will not happen soon.  But our calling is to be faithful and to continue to lift up the names of those slaughtered through U.S. military training.

Thirty people were arrested.  Four of them were arrested for climbing over the fence, topped with barb wire that had been erected at the entrance of the base.  They are charged with trespassing.  Those engaged in this self-conscious act of civil disobedience include:  Louis Vitale, OFM. (crossed the line for the fourth time) and David Omondi (of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker) who pleaded ‘no contest’ and were immediately convicted in the federal court.  They were sentenced to six months in prison by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles.  Nancy Smith and Chris Spicer, the other two who climbed the fence, pleaded ‘not guilty’ and will go to trial January 5, 2011.

Seven others were willing to risk arrest by demonstrating and closing the main street near the base leading to the city of Columbus.  Nineteen others were arrested by being caught up in the city police’s sweep that included a local barber who stepped from his shop to watch what was going on.  All these folks had to pay exaggerated bail and large fines and spent at least on night in jail.

Whether intending arrest or accidentally being caught up in the police action, demonstrators still stood by the call for justice and for the closing of the School.

So why does the U.S. military train military personnel of other countries to torture and kill teachers, priests and nuns, and labor organizers?  Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of
School of the Americas Watch, puts it this way:

For the past several decades, the US has allied with dictators in Latin America who helped the regimes small, elite group of wealthy landowners….We get involved militarily with these countries because they (are) rich in natural resources, with coffee in Colombia, bananas in Central America, copper in Chile, petroleum in Venezuela and tin in Bolivia.  With their militaries, the US joined with them to exploit those natural resources and to pay workers $1 a day….We are like the new conquistadors.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reflection on Broadview Vigil: Dec 10, 2010

Reflection on Broadview Vigil: Dec 10, 29010
Sharon Hunter-Smith

Today is Human Rights Day. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world..."

Today, I went to someplace close to home--the Broadview Immigrant Detention and Processing Center. Up until a few years ago, this was invisible to me. There is a weekly Friday prayer vigil held there at 7:15 in the morning, when undocumented immigrant detainees from all over the Midwest are "processed" (note the industrial language; the center is located also in an industrial zone): handcuffed, shackled, tied together at the waist, and "loaded" onto buses and vans to transport them to the airport to be deported. Today, 90 people were deported. People are deported every Tuesday and Friday from Broadview. I went, because I wanted an Advent discipline that was related to some aspect of the current reality we are living in, that would help me articulate what it is we are waiting for during Advent.

There was a woman, 8 months pregnant, who was praying with us today. Her husband was being deported to Mexico. He'd lived and worked here for 17 years. Denise Griebler, who was able to go onto one of the buses, told us of a 31 year old from El Salvador who came here with his parents as a 3 year old. His entire family system is now in the U.S. He knows no one in El Salvador. He primarily speaks English. He will be escorted across the U.S.-Mexican border with everyone else on that bus and left off in Mexico with $20 in his pocket.

The vigil is centered around praying the rosary, which means nothing to my Protestant sensibilities but means a lot to the primarily Catholic detainees and their family members present. I can see how "...pray for us now and in the hour of our death..." might have a lot of significance for someone who had made the harrowing journey across the border once and who might be facing a different kind of harrowing journey now.

Some impressions from today: since I last went, religious leaders are now allowed inside the detention center to minister to people in the hours before they are deported (of course, they are only allowed in 4-6 am on Fridays). Even though there has been a law on the books in Illinois since June 2009 that allows undocumented immigrant detainees access to religious ministry, Broadview chose not to recognize that right in practice for over a year.

Today, one of the people who was inside providing ministry witnessed the way detention center rules change, seemingly on someone's whim. On the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website are instructions to family members of detainees that they may bring up to 40 pounds of things for the detainee to take with him or her when s/he is deported. Understand that not every family will have the privilege of knowing when their family member is going to be deported--they are supposed to be able to call ICE or Broadview and find out, but sometimes people leave daily messages for weeks and never get a call back, or the phone rings and rings when they call. For those who do make it to the detention center on the day their loved one will be deported, sometimes there are surprises. Today, when family members gave detention center officials suitcases for their relatives, they were told that the deportees were not allowed to have suitcases. The person offering ministry today had shopping bags in the trunk of her car and brought them in so that the family could unpack the suitcases and put clothes and things in the bags instead.

People who are in power can be arbitrary. They don't need to have a reason. During Advent, we are waiting to celebrate the birth of someone who came as a baby without power, dependent on the love of others to sustain him and who later sustained others with his love (and apparently scared a lot of people in power). Maybe during Advent, we walk around in the darkness to make sure we know why we don't want to stay in it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BorderLinks North Delegation--October 17-19

On Oct. 17-19, 14 religious leaders came together in Chicago to listen deeply to our immigrant brothers and sisters.  We heard testimonies from many, including:
·         a young man who had grown up here but was undocumented.  He had suffered from depression like so many other young people whose lives are in limbo.  But he had found hope through joining with a local organization to create opportunities for himself and for others;
·         Labor rights defenders from Mexico who are hard at work informing immigrants and native-born people of their rights (and shocking lack of rights) under US law;
·         Nationally-recognized leaders in policy change;
·         The regional director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 
We shared meals, sleeping quarters, and personal histories, and together were transformed as we came to recognize Christ in our neighbors, the strangers and sojourners in our midst.  We challenged ourselves not to be the “voice of the voiceless,” because our neighbors are not voiceless.  This time, we are called to listen, and to think of ourselves as the sound engineers, amplifying and promoting the eloquent and powerful words already on the lips of our brothers and sisters.

By the end, we came away not only transformed, informed, and inspired. We also came away with new friends and partners in the immigrant and religious communities: partners who will accompany us as we continue the journey.  Thanks be to God.

The Importance of BorderLinks North Delegations--Rev. Sara Wohlleb

I have always understood Salvation as a continual process: God is always hard at work, saving God’s people from our own misunderstandings, fears, and injustices.  It is during these delegations that I can feel that presence and power very close at hand.  
Of course God’s work is urgently needed in the immigrant community: families are being ripped apart; victims of crime are afraid to call the police; our youth are facing no future without a 9-digit number.  But as we are invited in to see the courage and inspiring leadership at work, we come to understand how active God is in that community already.  
And I believe that God is needed just as urgently in my own community--those of us who been here for a little longer.  We need to be saved from our own too-small circles of friends; our willingness to accept the negative picture of “those people” promoted by the world-at-large; and our tendency to fall into “business as usual” instead of seeking the radical transformation of the Holy Spirit in every corner of our communities.
These delegations are a powerful way to usher in the Good News: that Salvation is here.  We ARE being saved from small-mindedness, from injustice, from all kinds of division.  Our work is far from done, but we have so many beautiful co-workers in the building of the Kingdom.  How can we help but smile, even if it is through tears, at the awesome possibilities before us?

Cipriano Juardo, Risking Life for Justice

Cipriana Jurado has worked as an advocate for the labor rights of women and for economic and environmental justice for more than 20 years in Cuidad Juárez, Mexico.  In the mid-90's, she founded the Center for Information and Solidarity for Working Women (CISO), a non-profit organization. She has been at the forefront of the workers’ movement in Ciudad Juárez and is fiercely committed to the principals of justice and equality for all people.  She’s demonstrated her commitment time and time again, putting her life on the line.
Since 2008, Cipriana and others have undertaken investigations of human rights violations committed by Mexico's Army, which has been deployed by President Calderon to reduce the flow of drugs into the USA. Because of this work, Cipriana received death threats, and one of her colleagues was killed.  In January 2010, Amnesty International released an alert asking the international community to protect Cipriana and other human rights defenders in Juárez from intimidation and death threats. The Chicago Religious Leaders Network responded to their appeal, and she has come to Chicago seeking temporary refuge from these threats.

Cipriana is available for speaking engagements in churches, organizations, schools and institutions.  To schedule an event featuring Cipriana, please contact Erica Spilde or Jenny Dale at 773-293-2964.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Emergency Resolution of Solidarity with Immigrants and the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ

With stirring speeches preceding dialogue and vote, the Illinois Conference passed a prophetic resolution.  This grass roots effort reflects the hard work of so many people within the Illinois Conference.  Illinois Maya Ministry is proud to be part of this hard work.

See the full text of this resolution here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Delegation Opportunities!

Immersion Education for Religious Leaders of All Faiths: October  17-19, 2010

This BorderLinks delegation is a two-day immersion experience, connecting clergy and leaders of all faiths with the daily realities and stories of their immigrant neighbors.  The delegation will assist religious leaders in understanding the immigrant experience in Chicago and the surrounding area.  Participants will return home with practical resources and insights to engage their congregants around the divisive issue of immigration.  Intentional reflection time will focus on appropriate and caring ways to accompany a congregation confronting this timely issue.  For a brochure with more detailed information, click on the attachment here.

Youth and Young Adult Delegation to Chiapas:  December 27, 2010-January 5, 2011, "Building Peace in Chiapas."

Only five more slots open!  Youth and young adults will learn the strength and courage of the Chiapan people, how our partner organizations work on a daily basis to build a lasting peace, and how life in Chiapas affects the immigration crisis in the United States. Present work project includes building a structure for the distribution of Western and folkloric medicines to be distributed to the rural poor.  To see the brochure and a fuller description of the delegation click here or contact Rev. Mike Mulberry.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Postville Second Anniversary

Three members of Illinois Maya Ministry made a pilgrimage to Postville, Iowa, to mark the second anniversary of the ICE raid of May 12, 2008.  Our main purpose was to be present, pray, and show our concern through showing up.

Our first stop was for the chapel service at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.  We were present to listen to mothers whose families were split up by the raid witness to their experience and suffering.  We were able to greet Campus pastor David Vasquez, whom we had met at the IMM forum last month in Rockford.  We enjoyed a time of fellowship and greeting after the service.  David talks about this service at this address:

From Luther College we drove to Congregational UCC in Decorah.  There we talked with Rev. Matthew Perkins who brought us up to date on the response of the religious community in the last year. 

We stopped at St Bridget's Church in Postville for a time of prayers.  Father Paul greeted us and we let him know that we were there for a pilgrimage and regretted that we could not stay for the commemoration service to be held at St Bridget's at 5 pm that evening.

Next, our little delegation stopped to see Rev. Gary Catterson, pastor of the Presbyterian Church there in Postville, to learn about what developments were taking place.  He told us about how AgriStar has taken over from Agriprocessors.  The work force is now about 1/3 of what it was before.  The new workers coming to town are not as family oriented as those who were there before, and this is making for some tension in the community.  One of the local banks has some 60 foreclosed homes, and while many towns have foreclosures this large number seems to be at least in part a result of the raid and the reduced workforce.  We thanked Gary for his insight, and shared in a time of prayer before we left.

We stopped for lunch at the local Mexican Restaurant.  We had the place to ourselves.  As we drove back to Rock Island, our beginning point, we talked in the car about how our visits in Postville are similar to those made in Central America, and how everyone we spoke with thanked us for our support and concern.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the Willows There

by Joan Maruskin, Church World Service

By the waters of the Rio Grande
By the waters of the Rio Grande,
There we sat down and there
  We wept
  When we remembered Zion.

On the willows there
We hung up our guitars

For there the Border Patrol
Asked us for songs

And the vigilantes asked for laughter
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land

By the waters we weep and we remember
  We remember Mexico and El Salvador
  We remember Burma and Tibet
  We remember Colombia and Chile
  We remember Cuba and Haiti
  We remember Darfur, the Congo, and Romania

By the waters we remember

On the willows we hung up our guitars
  We hung up our hopes
  We hung up our homes, our land, our dreams
  We hung up our poverty, our hunger, and our thirst
  We hung up our friends, our traditions and our culture
  We hung up our family ties, our food, and our language

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

We sing only the song of the homeless, the unemployed
  The laments of hunger and thirst, of death and destruction
  The songs of the songless, the hungry, the thirsty
  The songs of the dying.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

Letter from the UCC Southwest Conference in response to the new immigration law in Arizona

An Open Letter to President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Janet Napolitano and Governor Jan Brewer,
On April 24, 2010, the Southwest Conference of the UCC gathered at our Annual Meeting in Sedona, AZ.   Our meeting was disrupted with the announcement that Gov. Jan Brewer had signed SB1070.  We immediately went into a time of prayer for the soul of Arizona and all people who reside here.  

As people of faith we affirm and live by the biblical imperative, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”( Leviticus 19:33-34)
We are profoundly disturbed by the passage of the harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the country by the Arizona Legislature.  It is legislation such as this that codifies racial profiling and creates an atmosphere of suspicion, hatred, and scapegoating of immigrants and U.S citizens.
We celebrate the diversity of our nation and the contribution of immigrants and call for the end of the criminalization of individuals and the destabilization of our communities. 

We call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that will provide a path for legalization for people who are contributing to our society, an adequate system for future legal economic immigration and family reunification, and policies that prevent deaths in the desert.  We find it morally reprehensible that 5,500 men, women and children have lost their lives in the last 16 years trying to provide a life of dignity for their families. Policies such as SB 1070 and 287 (G) diminish the ability of local law enforcement to keep our communities safe. 

We are dedicated to the following actions to demonstrate our solidarity and commitment to our immigrant brothers and sisters who are created equally in the image of God regardless of race or nationality. We are committed to:

·        Encouraging members to pledge non- compliance with the unjust and racist law SB 1070
·        Cancel  plans to hold 2011 annual meeting in Arizona
·        Relocate our next annual meeting to another southwestern state
·        Encourage our business and professional members to influence board decisions
·        Direct action of prayer, study, protests, and fasting
·        Mobilize our congregations to advocate for the Dream Act, a just and fair Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the abolishment of SB 1070 and 287 (G)

As people of faith and conscience rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ, we hold to our UCC Statement of Affirmation of faith, in declaring, “You call us into your church…to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil.”

In Solidarity and Service,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Letter to a Young Man from Chiapas

by Elizabeth O'Brien (from the Humane Borders newsletter)

No more mangoes to pick
En la estancia de su abuelo.
No more money for food.
No way to take care of your family.
You don’t want them to starve.

First gather your family
Your village.
Share your plan,
Ask their help,
Collect their money—
$2,000 U.S.
Te dicen adios y te dicen buena suerte,
Your first shedding.

Find a coyote
Not the one Jose Martín used--
Jose Martín está muerto
Find one who knows the way
Around the wall.

Never mind that you don’t know
About the three days travel
In the Arizona desert
After the 2000 miles in Mexico.

No food. No water.
Except occasional water stations
Set out by Yanquis.

Never mind that you will
Leave so much of yourself
In the desert, maybe
Even your body.

Pero tu esperanza está muy fuerte
Y tu vas.

2000 miles by train or bus
On foot, in cars.
Sleep, your face pressed against the window
Mexico whirring by
Desert to trees to mountains
To desert.

Join a group in a safe house
Not really safe.
The coyote demands more money
No hay más
So you smuggle marijuana
While he rapes a wife
Or a daughter
Or an abuela--
Your second shedding.

Finally at the border.
And through a break in the wall

Bienvenidos a Arizona!
No shade. Sharp rocks.
Stabbing thorns
No water in the arroyo,
Only a few smooth stones
To hint at summer floods.

Your prized jacket--
“Baille de salsa”
Escrito en la espalda--
You won at the dance hall
Beating Jose Martín and Pedro
With your lightening turns
And sassy hips,
Spinning Maria ‘til dawn,
Worn for 2,000 miles.

But the heat in the desert
Even at night
Turns your triumph
Into a burden—
Too heavy, too dark, too unnecessary
You lay it with care up a rise
Under a creosote bush.
Later you toss the matching pants,
Silver stripe down the leg
Another shedding,
Leaving more of yourself behind.

As you stumble in the arroyos
Sliding on jagged granite
Or porous basalt
You have to lighten your pack.
Now the prayer book
Tia Gracela gave you
For confirmation.
You hope someone finds it
Who can carry it,
Treasure it,
Wonder who you were, or are.

You drop water bottle after water bottle
Sucked dry.
Now one gallon left
For three days
Under the AZ sun and moon.
One bottle—black plastic
Bought at the border.
No glint of white or clear
To alert the binoculars
Searching for you from the choppers
That criss-cross the desert
Looking for any glint--
A gold cross
A silver bracelet
A brass buckle
A white water bottle.

You freeze when you hear them
“La Migra! La Migra”
No motion allowed.
Hiding ’til they pass.

The coyote yells, pushes, tugs
Ordering things to be left behind--
“Salven la agua! Salven la comida!”
Nada más!!

You see what others have left
Along the rocks and shrubs.
A torn blouse embroidered with
Red and yellow flowers.
A tortilla cloth
Colcha stitched in
Blues, greens and reds.
One leg of jeans—one side
Faded almost white
The other a defiant blue
Pressed to the ground.
One shoe—
“Por qué?” tu piensas.
A jeans’ pocket
Embroidered with pink flowers
Silver studs and gold threads,
Like the one you gave tu sobrina Esperanza
Para su quinceañera.

The most worrisome find--
A baby bottle with pedialite
A diaper bag, empty now.
No longer needed--
Or almost there?

Suddenly shouts.
A scuffle.
Silence as you
Huddle beneath
A boulder.
A navy-sleeved arm
Grabs you.
Screams las palabras en inglés
You don’t understand.

You are shoved hand-cuffed into a van
Lights flashing.
Again, your face pressed
Against the window as Arizona whirs by
Stopping only when you reach
And the detention center.

The coyote nowhere to be seen.

At least se hablan español aquí.
A sandwich.
A coke.
Half bus fare home.


Es verdad.
(It’s true)
Tu sueño esta rompiendo
(Your dream is broken)
Pero tu tienes esperanza
(But you have hope)
Y tu comienzas a planear otra vez.
(And you begin to plan again)
Not having lost
All of yourself in the desert.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Illinois Maya Ministry Forum - "Immigration Stories"

Saturday, April 17, 
Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Rockford, Illinois, 
Registration:  $35.00
Presenter, Rev. David Vásquez, Campus Pastor, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa,
Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Rockford, IL
Rev. Vásquez is presently the campus pastor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. During this, his sabbatical year, he has been focusing on migration narratives--in the Bible and in people’s lives today--exploring how the immigrant experience mighthelp us better understand our sacred texts while engaging our faith communities in the contemporary conversation about immigration reform. Pastor Vásquez was pivotal in providing support and advocacy for the immigrant community in Postville and Decorah, Iowa, after the largest (to that date) Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in May 2008.
A play recounting the experience of the Guatemalan and Mexican workers of the May 12, 2008, raid in Postville, Iowa, will be presented  that was originally acted out by people who were detained awaiting deportation.  For more information and to see a brochure in pdf format, click here.

Send check to:  Rev. Mike Mulberry; P.O. Box 927; Byron, IL  61010

Postville Witnesses Soon To Be Deported

Illinois Maya Ministry wishes to express its grief and solidarity with those Postville witnesses that will soon be deported.  Immigrations and Customs Enforcement/Department of Homeland Security has disregarded the State of Iowa's wish to keep all the witnesses in Iowa, and has ordered their deportation on or before March 31, 2010.  With all that these people had suffered, the hope was that they might receive visas, dual citizenship or just more time to prepare for their departure.  Illinois Maya Ministry will certainly try to keep you aware of any future actions or advocacy that might be done on their behalf.

Monday, February 22, 2010

UCC Immigrant Rights Sunday

The first Sunday in May, May 2nd, has been designated Immigrant Rights Sunday within the UCC. Justice and Witness Ministries and Wider Church Ministries are urging congregations to lift up immigrants on this day: to learn about their concerns, honor their contributions to our country and communities, and listen to hear where God is leading us regarding issues of immigration.  For worship resources, click here.

Beyond the Border: Chicago 2010

Description: As a delegation solely in the interior of the United States, the trip forms part of our “Beyond the Border” series.  Among the goals of the series is to work with local partners and groups around the U.S. who are interested in learning, serving, and worshipping alongside immigrants in these communities.  Like traditional BorderLinks trips, the Chicago delegation will include educational visits with agencies working for immigration advocacy and policy reform, sharing and dialogue with immigrants living in Chicago, cultural activities and exchanges, and time for reflection, worship, and action planning.  Delegation leadership will be shared between BorderLinks staff and local partners based in Chicago.

The February delegation is open to individuals or small groups, but space is limited.  If your group of 13 people (high school age and up) would like to book the entire delegation, please contact the BorderLinks office as soon as possible.

Date: April 15-18, 2010.  The trip begins and ends in the late afternoon.
For more information, please contact the BorderLinks office in Tucson at 520-628-8263 and ask for the Education Department, or send us an e-mail.