A Reflection: Journeying with migrants
The God of the Tent vs. The God of the Empire
By Sr. Maureen Catabian RGS
(A Reflection on my experiences as part of the Ecumenical Church Delegation attending the Conference on “Churches Witnessing with Migrants” and the Third International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR3) in
It was my longest journey so far.
Churches Witnessing with Migrants
I listened with the God of the Tent as I opened my heart, my eyes and ears and heard the stories and cries of migrants and refugees being discriminated upon, exploited, made invisible and abused in host countries, often “disappeared” and massacred in borders.
I mourned and rejoiced with the God
of the Tent as I encountered and embraced Honduran mothers seeking and finding
lost sons and daughters of 20 years ago- who have disappeared in the borders of
I protested with the God of the
Tent as I marched the streets of
I questioned the God of the Tent as we united our demands with protesting teachers and academics clamoring for an increase in budget for education from the Mexican government.
I was awed with the God of the Tent as I witnessed the enduring spirit of the “ex-Braceros” who in their old age marched in solidarity with us to bring to the consciousness of the Mexican government their demand for justice from the slavery and torture they went through when they were exported to work for US masters during World War II and onwards , claiming just compensation for the toil and to demand benefits for themselves and their kin.
I was nourished by the God of the Tent as I shared meals with migrants and refugees , slept in their home, listened to their prophetic voices and dreams and celebrated their songs of hope and struggle.
I gained wisdom with the God of the Tent as we engaged in conversation, in dialogue with each others’ cultures and socio-political histories, learning from the struggles and experiences of other migrant peoples from other continents of the world.
I witnessed compassion with the God of the Tent as I became one with the migrants’ experience of loneliness and being uprooted, in isolation and suffering from cultural alienation in a foreign land where they had hoped and dreamt of building a better life.
I loved the God of the Tent.
I also met the god of the Empire.
Propped by mammon and corporate greed. It connotes a Fortress. Symbolizing grandeur and entrenchment.
With tightly guarded borders controlled and secured by armed military because of the need to protect “property”. It doublespeaks about welfare and rights and alleging concern for the well-being of exploited migrant labor in the global community. But in real would only want to maximize (manage) workers’ remittances which amount to billions of dollars for profit and personal gain. It actually exploits “migration” as a tool for development
I have seen the god of the Empire from a distance. It glitters in elegance but refuses to allow people to come near it lest its security be jeopardized.
The god of the Empire is deaf and mute to the protests and clamors for justice by migrants, immigrants and refugees and not keen authentic in reducing or even addressing the social costs of migration.
I denounce the gods of the Empire. I reject the gods of neoliberal globalization.
United and never defeated -migrants and refugees from around the world speak out – “For many years, they have talked about us, but now we shall speak for ourselves!” “While they discuss how to exploit us, they silence us and they shut us out. We say to them: as long as the GFMD exists we will come back year after year to continue our fight for migrant rights.”
I proclaim the God of the Tent as it announces “ liberation of the oppressed and criticizing cultic observance without social justice”. It demands “to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of yoke, to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke, to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the person you see naked and not turn from your kin” (Isaiah58).
Jesus said: “Break down this temple of stone and I will raise it up in three days”. The Pharisees were angered because their ancestors have built this temple for thousands of years. And for this – they crucified him.
by: Sr. Maureen Catabian, RGS-
Shepherd Asia-Pacific Justice and Peace Network
(GS APJP Network)
November 23, 2010