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Sunday at the border

Presbyterian border ministry leads a pilgrimage of prayer, lament, repentance and commitment at the wall

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Mark Adams, in the red hood, begins to gather participants at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo by Jenea Sanchez)

LOUISVILLE — On a cool Arizona Sunday afternoon, mission co-workers Miriam Maldonado Escobar and the Rev. Mark Adams gathered with group of Christians on the border between Agua Prieta, Mexico, and Douglas, Arizona, for a prayer pilgrimage in solidarity with the “Not Another Foot” movement to call for an end of the massive border wall spanning the entire Southern border of the United States.

“We come here today with groups all along the border who are calling out ‘not another foot,’ a call to halt the continued destruction of God’s Creation,” said Adams. “At this border between two nations we come together as a common humanity to join our voices and to commit ourselves to working for the day when walls will not divide us and where borders will be places of encounter and not division.”

While some physically gathered at the border, a larger group from different faith traditions, different places and different perspectives gathered by Zoom to participate in the first of three stops of prayer and reflection.

The gathering marked the end of President Joseph Biden’s first week in office, where one of his first official acts was to pause construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall and review its contracts and funding. The order terminated the national emergency for the Southern border that President Donald Trump issued on February 15, 2019.

After a reading of Scripture, Jocabed Gallegos, Mexican coordinator of global partner Frontera de Cristo, where she works with Maldonado Escobar and Adams, offered a reflection. She moved to Agua Prieta in 1990 when the border was a very different place. Her friends sometimes crossed to go to the swimming pool in Douglas without going through the port of entry. Many families she knew would cross to go to the only mega grocery store in the area to shop. When border patrol agents stopped them, the agents would sometimes give them a lift to the store and even wait to drive them back if they had the time.

A few poles and some barbed wire were the only things that divided the two communities.

Jocabed Gallegos gives her reflection as pictured through the border wall. (Photo by Jenea Sanchez)

“When we started having this wall imposed on us, the relationship between our two communities changed,” she said. “People started to fear what was on the other side and the harmony that existed between our two communities changed with it. The policies became harsher and we started seeing more and more people hurt. Coyotes began charging exorbitant amounts of money to carry people across this new border. Migration policies changed. More and more pain came to this valley, but God calls us to tear down borders in the name of the Divine.”

Gallegos challenged those assembled to love and respect God’s Creation. She said construction of the physical wall also represented the destruction of Creation. “When we join together as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are saying we want peace and justice and we want to establish the bonds of unity that have been torn apart,” Gallegos said.

Having hosted many U.S. groups before the pandemic, Gallegos was reminded of someone who had asked if she thought it was possible that the wall would ever be demolished. Another woman in her group said, “That’s what we used to say about the Berlin Wall and we saw it fall.” She said, “Whether it’s us or those who come behind us, we must take steps to make sure there is harmony among us.”

After songs and prayer, the group journeyed 35 miles along the border road, making stops for prayer and reflection at Silver Creek Mile, at the boundary of the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge in Arizona and the final stop in Guadalupe Canyon, where a 100 foot deep gash has been cut into the rugged mountain in order to put a 30 foot fence in it. The service concluded with participants committing to work for the restoration of God’s Creation.

Anna Valer Clark, founder of the Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation, reflected on restoration. “The work we have done has started the water flowing in the streams again, and the animals have begun to find this water,” Valer Clark said. “Our cameras have picked up photos of bears, javelinas, antelope, deer, lions, coatimundi and the jaguar, along with hundreds of smaller mammals. We lamented the social effects of wall on us and the disastrous effects the wall will have on the Earth in the future.”

In addition to Frontera de Cristo, organizations working for the restoration of God’s Creation at the border include:

Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation                                                                                              The Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation mentioned above works to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the U.S.-Mexican borderlands through land protection, habitat restoration and wildlife reintroduction.

Contact: 12626 East Turkey Creek Road, Pearce, Arizona, 85625.  Tel: (520) 824-1555

Madrean Archipelago Wildlife Center

The Madrean Archipelago Wildlife Center is dedicated to helping the community walk as if every step is a prayer on Mother Earth. It’s located in the Madrean Archipelago/Madrean Sky Island region of Arizona, an area of globally significant biodiversity, harboring the highest diversity of mammals, birds, bees, and ants in the United States.

Sierra Club Borderlands

Reach Dan Millis, Borderlands program manager for Sierra Club Borderlands, at dan.millis@sierraclub.org or @SC_Borderlands.

Southern Border Communities Coalition

Since 2011, the Southern Border Communities Coalition has brought together 60 organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, that human dignity and human rights are respected, and the loss of life in the region is prevented.

Adams encouraged those who want to see the cultural, geological and biological treasures destroyed by the border wall restored, contact their representatives.

Congressional contacts

Contact your U.S. senator via email here.

Find contact information for your U.S. House representative here.


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