Lights for Liberty
[ by Rev. Ashley Bair ]
Jesus spent most of his time on earth traveling by foot. His ministry included encounters with people he met along the road. Jesus healed the sick, taught the disciples, ate with outcasts, played with children, and offered peace to those whom he met on the journey. After a while, people started walking with Jesus and walking to find Jesus - a minister who traveled by foot.
When he was near the sea of Galilee, a large group of people had walked and gathered to be near him. When his disciples saw the size of the crowd, they went to Jesus and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into villages and buy food for themselves” (Matthew 14:15). Jesus told the disciples, “Some of them have come from far away” (Mark 8:3). And he instructed the disciples not to send the crowd away, but to take what they had and feed them. At the end of the meal, everyone was satisfied.
I think often about how Jesus was a walking healer. He didn’t choose to stay inside or to travel to places of importance. He traveled along the dirt path; the path that so many are being forced to take. And he stayed there with those he met and offered them what he could.
Today, there are crowds that have walked and journeyed to gather for peace and hope and freedom. Yet, when they arrive to their destination, it seems more likely for them to be turned away or detained.
One of the places where this is happening is right on our own United States border with Mexico.
Once families and individuals cross the border, they are placed in detention. The conditions are so abhorrent that lawmakers and journalists who have been able to visit are calling the centers “concentration camps.” Children wear clothes caked with dirt and are caring for infants. Women in cells find their only access to water in a toilet. The overcrowding forces people to sleep on concrete.1 Access to basic nutrition and hygiene is denied.
It is difficult to know what to do to help in a time such as this, especially when it still feels far away from us. We live in Minnesota, the camps are in Texas and Arizona. On July 12, people gathered across the U.S. and world in vigil at detention camps to protest the inhumane conditions that asylum seekers face. And to show that even though we only hear about the conditions on the border, asylum seekers are being held in detention in every state in the U.S.
Folks from Central held vigil at 12 locations in Minnesota including with neighbors at Fort Snelling, where Immigration Court cases are heard, Ramsey County Adult Detention Center and with our neighbors in Elk River, where the Sherburne County Jail serves as the largest Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) detention center in the state. This detention center has 120 beds and holds over 300 people, with at least 25% held without a criminal charge. There is a current proposal to expand this site to 500 beds with a 10 year contract.
Let our participation in Lights for Liberty and our frustration at the system serve as a catalyst. May we continue to listen and learn how best to use what we have to help others in the most meaningful and impactful way. Our neighbors are terrified for their lives. Some of them have come from far away. What would our God, who also traveled by foot, do?
Members from Central participated in the nationwide Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps with neighbors and community leaders at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center, Fort Snelling and Sherburne County Jail.