No Border Wall Walk- Day 8

Got Hope- Matthew Webster and Kiel Harell

Today began with chorizo and eggs, huevos con papas, and pan dulce sweetbreads. The eight church women who initially welcomed us to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Las Rusias with tambourines and noisemakers were all there to see us off this morning in style. Everything was delicious, and it felt just like having 8 grandmothers as they watched us eat with sheer delight.

After our hearty breakfast, we went into the church and discussed nonviolence and immigration under the watch of the crucifix and the palm branches for Palm Sunday. These Catholic women, like almost every other denomination, firmly believed in loving humanity regardless of definitions or distinctions. They nodded and added their affirmation to our discussion. We left singing “Juntos Como Hermanos,” and we did leave with a sense of brotherhood and togetherness. Looking back at the church, all those women were still out front, still singing, still waving to us.

It was a great way to begin Day 8, and this send-off made today’s 10-mile walk go even faster than expected. Our four new recruits all sped up our beleaguered pace, and so we made it to the next church, San Ignacio Iglesia in Ranchito, at the early hour of 1:00. I came in holding the sign of the Virgin saying, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me;” how fitting as we received yet another warm welcome from this parish, despite the fact that we were five hours early.

I was a Stranger and you Welcomed Me- No Al Muro with Crystal Canales

After a lunch of watermelons and cantaloupe, a few of us ventured into the local communities. The levee runs close to the road here, and hundreds of houses have yards adjutting the levee where the wall is proposed. It was encouraging to engage in this, the pragmatic aspect of this No Border Wall Walk. We got to discuss legal options with local residents, many of whom didn’t know their rights or even that an eighteen-foot wall was intended to be built directly behind their lot. If our visit inspires even one of them to oppose the federal government or encourages even a singly family to refuse to sign away their property rights, this walk will have been more than worthwhile.

We returned to San Ignacio for a delicious dinner of chicken mole. Local resident and UTB Professor Eloisa Tamez said the prayer for us in this, her home church. Eloisa, looking all of 55 despite her 72 years, has partnered with Peter Schey and is continuing to fight the federal government’s attempts to survey and use her land for the building of a border wall. Her story has inspired the community and the entire border region to stand up for what is right, regardless of how indomitable the opposition may seem.

Thinking about this sleepy town and its national importance at this precise moment, it is clear that there are several different reactions to conflict. Each border community has had people respond in various ways and with varying degrees of success. As Dr. King laid out in his speech, “Loving Your Enemies,” there are three ways to respond to oppression and resistance. One is violence, though “[v]iolence creates many more problems than it solves…and unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.” No, violence in words or deeds cannot be the way, because we seek not a negative peace, or merely the absence of a wall – no, we desire a positive peace, the presence of something greater than a wall such as immigration reform and real security measures in our ports and airports.

In the towns of Ranchito and El Calaboz, many residents have chosen the second response to opposition of which Dr. King speaks. King states that acquiescence is evil as well, “because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” The Catholic churches which have housed us this past week classify sins in two categories – sins of commission and sins of omission. Acquiescence is ultimately the sin of omission, because, “for him who knows the good that he ought to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Simply being silent or choosing not to act on personal principles because of fear is to aid and abet the side of wrong.

But there is one last way, the way of Eloisa Tamez and this 126-mile sacrifice from Roma to Brownsville. Martin Luther King said that nonviolence was the only way to create lasting, positive change that would ultimately benefit both the oppressed and the oppressor. Nonviolence is the only strategy which can bring about true love and peace, because the ends are preexistent in the means. King states that, “love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.”

It is this force we have sought to channel this week through a sustained, nonviolent demonstration through communities bracing for the effects of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. As it stands now, the border wall is federal law, and so to counter this legislation, we must begin to change the hearts of the constituents who voted in politicians who would espouse such an atrocity on our southern border. We must positively and nonviolently educate our brothers and sisters here and throughout the United States. We must appeal to that conscience with which our Creator endowed all of us. May God continue the work he has begun this week in the Valley and the ripples of morality that have pulsated out across the waves of media. His truth is marching on, and may it bring justice and education and action to this pressing issue.

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3 Responses to “No Border Wall Walk- Day 8”

  1. Mark Says:

    First, I was struck by your tantalizing food descriptions and realized that you have been well fed this week. Especially important because of the additional exercise, fueling up must have been one of the highlights each day and I’ll bet you’re going to miss these mealtime gatherings. In John 4, Jesus tells his disciples that his food was “to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” It’s a double blessing to receive earthly food while we’re having heavenly food, in the will of the Father.
    I assume the group will have renewed energy as you approach beloved Brownsville. As we have discussed, it’s good to start well; it’s even better to end well. I’m praying that you finish on the Lord’s day with a sense of accomplishment, of having raised awareness and clearly communicated the issues of immigration reform. Perhaps this march will prompt serious dialogue. We’re proud of what you and others have done. Helen Keller siad, “Life is a daring adventure of nothing at all.” You have dared to live the adventure. While the immigration issue is significant, there will be many more issues of importance in your lifetime. May you approach each one with the grace and truth that comes from the relationship with Jesus Christ. Remeber that God does not call the equipped, He equips the called. Our admiration to you and others who are called for leaning into this issue and making a difference. May each one of us, regardless of our corner of the earth, be so courageous to follow our calling.

  2. Matthew Webster Says:

    Mark,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement, challenge, prayers, and support of the No Border Wall Walk. Again, we were amply nourished by God and by man. It was an adventure entering Brownsville with 5 squad cars, who even let us stop at a main intersection for 5 minutes of song and dancing. I believe the Brownsville Herald said one of the group’s leaders was a whirling dervish :).

    Anyways, it was a beautiful time to see so many people gathered together in one place around one issue of social justice. The Bible tells us that whenever two or more are gathered in my Name, He is there with them. With 400-500 people gathered together for the plight of immigrants, we pray that God will forward their cause.

  3. Miryam Says:

    Thanks for the comment you made about the four recruiters, I was one of them. I think it was all your effort and enthusiasm that made the journey go by fast that day.

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