Struggling to Welcome the Stranger
I have been struggling with what seems to be a contradiction; maybe I am not the only one? The despicable extermination of many Syrians last week, including a number of innocent infants and children, tugs at our heartstrings and sense of compassion and basic human rights. So heinous, this atrocity, that it commanded a military response from our nation. I get that, and it seems that most other Americans, as well as other world leaders understand it as well. Meanwhile, another “death knell” for an innocent family is threatened to take place right here in our own community. The plight of Maribel Trujillo-Diaz, an undocumented worker who immigrated to the United States in 2002 fleeing from violence and danger has been widely reported. As I write this letter her deportation seems imminent despite efforts of our State legislators and an outcry from the community. We have very little control over the events taking place in Syria, though we might argue that, thankfully, chemical warfare has been taken off the table for now. Alternatively, we have complete control of the events taking place in our nation as they pertain to deportation of upstanding, contributing neighbors.
Last Sunday, I participated in the prayer vigil for Ms. Trujillo-Diaz at St. Joseph Church in Hamilton. Her family sat in the pew behind me, the grief and fear on their faces so evident. We marched from church to the Butler County Detention Center and prayed further. Afterward, I had the chance to hug her husband, her eldest child (fourteen years old) and her youngest child (three years old with special needs). As I have done countless times in immersion trips to Guatemala, I made the sign of the cross on their foreheads, “Dios te bendiga,” God bless you! They are not just names. They are children of God. They are a family, just likes yours and mine. They need their mother and wife to be present. I cannot fathom their pain as I try to imagine how it would feel if I were the husband and father.
If we are so moved by the death of innocents, especially children, in Syria, as we should be, shouldn’t we likewise be moved by the “death” threatened upon this family? I would argue that the deaths abroad are mostly beyond our control. However, the decisions made locally are totally within our control. Something seems amiss. We must free Maribel and legislate comprehensive immigration reform so that these “funerals” stop happening across our nation.
About the Author: Pastor Henry Zorn is Co-Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati, OH. A vibrant and welcoming community of faith and a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.