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Theology on Tap – Monday, Jan. 22, 2007

The topic was “Dying to Live:  Desperate and Dangerous Immigration on the US-Mexico Border”. Hilary Cunningham and Stephen Scharper, Associate Professors at the University of Toronto, seen above, presented an insightful talk on their experiences at the border and the underlying theology in border issues. Below, a participant shares his thoughts on the talk:

We heard about the militarization of the border in heavy traffic areas, which has pushed undocumented workers into the desert. At least 3000 people have died in the desert trying to get across the border. The deaths have motivated Humane Borders, a church group in south Arizona, to give water to migrant workers. Seventy water towers have been built and many volunteers hand out water to the people. Other Samaritan groups administer medical aid to those who are ill. Members of the group “No More Deaths” go further by not only administering medical aid, but also giving legal advice, and transporting undocumented workers illegally, an act of civil disobedience.

Clearly poverty and desperation are at the root of the problem, and we know that Jesus was on the side of the poor in his ministry. It makes us question what we should do. Can the church be neutral when poor people are being exploited? There is also the issue of the environment, because of the litter left by undocumented workers. The integrity of creation is also at stake.

The possibilities are: civil disobedience (breaking the law), civil obedience (supporting immoral laws) or civil initiative ( citizens working within the existing framework of laws). The ecumenical church groups have chosen the best route, civil initiative, and supply water to desperate migrants. These groups are asserting their right to religious expression and demonstrating hospitality. Their example should spur us to act where we see injustice and poverty in our society.

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