Parishioners ask neighbors to welcome strangers as they would welcome Jesus
The Christmas story of Joseph asking for a place to stay when he needed help is put in a new context this year as people seeking asylum are routinely being turned away from America’s southern border. Organized by Michigan United, Members of Centro Familiar Cristiano gathered in the sanctuary of the Methodist Church Thursday, Dec. 14, to hear from the individuals intimately involved in this situation.
Detroit Central United Methodist Church Pastor Rev. Jill Hardt-Zundel was in San Diego, where the border fence reaches the Pacific Ocean, as part of a demonstration with 400 other faith leaders from across the country. Rev. Zundel's church is a member of Michigan United and has supported a family taking sanctuary to avoid deportation.
“We came to bear witness to the injustice of what is happening to those seeking refuge in the United States,” Rev. Zundel said.
As Rev. Zundel and the protestors in San Diego approached the barrier, border patrol officials dressed in riot gear confronted them. Suddenly, one of the organizers was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer.
“In all, 32 people were arrested for singing, praying and trying to bring a blessing to the people on other side,” Rev. Zundel said.
“We come here tonight because of other border crossers. Their names are Jose, Maria and Jesus,” Rev. Zundel told the audience. “If they were here today and trying to find refuge, a brown skinned Jesus would not be welcomed at the border. He would be tear gassed and ripped from his mother’s arms.”
Rev. Zundel called for the government to demilitarize, defund ICE and end deportations and detentions.
But in the current climate, people like Edna De Leon find themselves in limbo waiting to see if they will receive the mercy they seek. De Leon fled Guatemala in 2015 because the government would no longer protect her from a criminal gang she had testified against. In a statement read by her Detroit attorney Miglady Bermudez, De Leon said, “I have no idea when I will have my interview or the results of that interview. It’s a difficult time for me and my daughter. I know many people from my country are at the border right now asking for the same help I asked for in 2015. I ask God to help us all and give us the protection we need.”
Co-Chair of the Detroit Immigration Task Force, U.S. Army veteran and immigrant Sophia Chue said, “I would never have thought the country I served would do this to immigrants coming here because they think this country could be their home. We have to remember that the US-Mexico border is not a war zone and we should not treat it as such.”
Former gubernatorial candidate and son of Egyptian immigrants Abdul El-Sayed said during a speech, “He has called people coming here, people wanting nothing more than the American dream, invaders. As we get to the end of 2018, I hope and I pray that in 2019 we will come to our senses and remember who we are as a country.”
Following the speeches attendees put on their coats and went outside to take part in the Posadas Navidenas, a Latin Christmas ritual brought to southwest Detroit by the immigrants who live there today. Celebrators walked through the neighborhood singing carols and when they stopped at a house they recited the lyrics asking to let them in. Homeowners homeowner dutifully recited lyrics back, turning them away so the Posada can continue until they return to the church where they are welcomed, taken in and fed.
One of the highlights of the evening was watching the children, who are lucky enough to delight in this peaceful evening, tear into the pinata and scramble for candy as it fell to the floor. They enjoyed the treats as much as the adults enjoyed an evening of warmth and welcome in their community.