Rev. Mitra Jafarzadeh’s prayer before silent meditation at St. John’s, June 17, 2018.
You may have heard that 2,000 children have been taken from their parents and placed in detention centers in the last 6 weeks. The total number of children in detention is now over 11,000 kids (per The NY Times). You may have even seen the pictures of the Walmart that has been converted into an internment camp. You have not yet seen the pictures of the tent city in western Texas where temperatures reach to the low 100s in mid-June. The camp that went up almost overnight in the city of Tornillo, Texas, and as of this morning’s news had about 100 children residing there. (per the El Paso Times)
As a clergywoman, when news of separations first started, I turned towards my library, I went to my favorite bible to see what it might say with regards in particular to separating a nursing baby from its mother. But I stopped short for this reason:
Our instinct to protect the young, to preserve the parent /child bond is so primal that it predates any written word. It is not ethics in the realm of philosophers or morality in the realm of theologians to which we appeal, but the bone-deep basics of our humanity – no, not even our humanity – for animals in the wild will care for each other’s young from time to time and animals in our domestic world regularly cross species to nurture kitten or puppy. This need to not inflict unnecessary pain and harm on our babies and children is bone-deep.
Here is the thing that pains me and you and everyone else. There is no THEM doing this. The government is our government. The money they are using is our money. We have government by the people for the people.
Ours is to not get weary—ours is to call evil what it is, even if the stink of evil is on our own hands.
Ours is to use what power and platform we have whether it be speaking one on one or speaking to thousands, or singing to thousands, or writing to representatives, newspapers, online forums, what have you. We cannot allow evil to go unchecked and unchallenged.
We cannot allow lies to go unnamed. Let us pray for the courage, the ferocity, the gentle wisdom to confront the lies and the liar and those who would have you believe they are only ignorant when they repeat the lies. You know the ones I mean:
- That there is no choice but to separate child from mother or father.
- That every child who is stolen is stolen because his or her mother broke the law.
- That the bible says this destruction of the family, this infliction of trauma on the least of these is holy work.
- That there is nothing we can do.
This morning, Texas congressman O’Rourke is leading a Father’s Day march on the tent city. Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former sheriff of Dallas County Lupe Valdez will be joining the march.
It doesn’t matter if we call it a detention camp or an internment camp or a tent city or a jail or a prison. The government – our government – is referring to the location in Tornillo as our “overflow facility.”
This is what it is: it is a confined space where armed guards are always watching, where eating, sleeping, peeing, playing, are all regulated by people who live outside your body. And the people who are there are children – the most vulnerable.
How are they chosen? By the color of their skin, the speech on their tongue, the country of their origin. When they are taken, the guards are telling the parents that they are taking the children to bathe or clean up and that is the last time the parents see the child.
I call on each of us and all fellow churches of any moral character to lay our bodies down in defense of the soul of our nation that we might be saved from the evil we are committing. I call on churches whose members or neighbors work for ICE to promise the families who depend on such corrupt income that they will be fed and housed by the church if needed so that when a man or woman is asked to rip a child from his or her parents, that worker for the state will have a legitimate option to say something other than, “I was not responsible, I was just following orders.”
We all know the Martin Niemöller quote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
But I may have crossed a line. After all, this is no dictatorship begun with a power grabbing winner of the plurality vote to make him chancellor in 1933. We are not so much concerned with the socialist. They are not coming for the trade unionist.
They have come for the Moslem.
They have come for the wedding cake.
They have come for the park land and the clean water standards.
They have come for the victim of domestic violence.
Now they come, again, for the children.
And they call it holy work.
And we must say no.
Whatever source you draw from, be it the inner light of conscience or the great transcendent divine, let us pray for the strength and wisdom and power to resist the very evil we are becoming.