Bishop Shamana commemorates National Hispanic Heritage Month

October 04, 2007

Sept.15 was the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating independence for five Latin American Countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence Sept. 16.

We honor the rich heritage of 21 Latino cultures and the contributions of people who have come to the United States.

For many of our brothers and sisters from these countries the journey has not been easy. For many it has been a journey to their death. Often it ends in a shallow grave in the desert. Some call these hermanos y hermanas, “tax evaders and welfare robbers.” As people of faith Christ calls us to see them as sojourners among us.

Ten weeks ago I traveled to Tucson, Arizona to be part of the border experience with the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops. For five days we traveled across the border into Mexico to learn what migrants experience as they walk across the desert to get to the United States.

Their destination is a better life for their families, their future, and to contribute their skills to the building up of America.

Our five day journey was led by Rev. Robin Hoover, Disciples Pastor and founder of Humane Borders, and Presbyterian Clergy Intern, Rev. Ani Gootenberger. Their mission is broad, including advocating for legal status for undocumented workers. They are best known for water stations – installing and maintaining water tanks in the sweltering desert of the Southwest.

“Water stations are an interim moral response to death in the desert” is their mantra. The same could be said for the 50,000 people who traveled to Jena, Louisiana on September 20th. “Our protest march is an interim moral response to injustice against black male youth.”

On our way to Altar, Mexico, we stopped to inspect water stations along Highway 286, the unforgiving desert stretch called Devil’s Highway. These tanks are a testament to what we believe. Water is a basic right for all God’s people no matter their political persuasion, language, condition, or situation. Humane Borders also erects 50 foot poles to show where natural water wells are located.

Our group talked with immigrants waiting to be taken across the desert into the United States. On the day we carried blankets across the border at Nogales, Arizona, we prayed with a young migrant with blistered feet while two women volunteers treated his wounds. At a Hospitality House in Altar, Mexico where up to 4,000 migrants arrive per day, men and women were fed, clothed and sheltered as they waited to travel.

Our Annual Conference has passed a resolution calling for immigration reform that is humane, just, compassionate, and comprehensive.

“Justice is looking for openings to the impossible” says French Ethicist J. Derrida.

Bishop Beverly Shamana