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Borderlands Dialogues: On Empathy and Accompaniment, Part 1

Kristy: Well, cousin, we are finally out along the border… So what do you see as our task, or tarea, for this trip?

Gary: It seems to me that the U.S./Mexico has become more politicized that at any point in its 170-year history. So perhaps our task is not to further politicize the already volatile and politically contested conditions here. Instead, we are hoping to rehumanize, rather than dehumanize the many who have been caught in the crossfire here.

Kristy: From Nogales to El Paso today, we’ve already accompanied individuals with many different takes on the border crisis, on immigration policies, and human needs, haven’t we?

Gary: Just think of all those who we have listened to or seen today, while we were sitting on the cement at the U.S.-Nogales border fence, or in border town cafes: newly-arrived migrant families from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Mexican states of Michoacan and Guerrero; women among them seeking political asylum; children among them too young to know what asylum means; women and men in the Border Patrol who feel they have been given ambiguous marching orders as federal policies have shifted; staff members working in detention facilities for unaccompanied minors who do not personally feel children should be separated from their mothers; humanitarian aid workers who fear that conditions in adult detention centers are far worse; ranchers; park rangers; paramedics; translators; human rights lawyers; and faith-based volunteers—all of whom must navigate through the legal and metaphorical land mines of international policies, protocols and prejudices every day!

Kristy: And yet, when we met with Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who formerly directed the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, we heard hope as well. And when we met with Joanna Williams of the Kino Border Initiative, she also emphasized hope. There are so many people who are offering humanitarian aid for those women, men and children fleeing violence.

Gary: It was a breath of fresh air to hear Bishop Kicanas say this to us, just before offering us a prayer of traveling mercies:

“This is basically more than just a cluster of political issues. It is a set of moral issues… The same issues are cropping up all around the world, not just on the U.S.-Mexico border, but also on the Bhutan-Nepal border where I’ve recently visit, and the Lebanon-Syria border [where our ancestors are from.] We desperately need to spend more in dialogue with one another and less time villainizing or disparaging the ‘other side.’ The task of the church is get people in dialogue about this societal crisis. To do so, the church itself must become a more welcoming place where we can accompany those most in need…”


Written by: Gary Nabhan and Kristy Nabhan-Warren





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