Stations of the Cross in the Borderlands

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Using readings from the gospels these stations weave the story of Jesus’ death with stories and realities of migrants and detained immigrants in Arizona.These reflections were written and compiled by Carol Bradsen and offered by members of the Casa Mariposa community today in Tucson. Thanks to Kate Blair for centering us with breath and to De Vie Weinstock for sharing a moving meditation on piano to conclude the service. 

Today is Friday. The end of a long week. We have remembered the way that Jesus walked in these last days. On Sunday there were the crowds. The cries of Hosanna. Then the next day overturned tables in the temple. Jesus’ cry for justice. That God’s house be for all, not just the rich. Then the tender last meal shared with friends. The washing of feet. Do this. Jesus told his disciples. Then the garden. Jesus pleading for life. Sweating blood. No! Take this cup. But in the end, Yes. If it must be. Not my will. But yours. Then betrayal. By a kiss. From a friend. And then Jesus was arrested. This Jesus who stirred up the masses. Who spun a vision of another society where the poor and outcast have a place at the table, not just as underpaid servants and farm slaves, but as brothers and sisters, as beloved. Jesus was dangerous. Those who had the power and the money knew he had to be stopped.

These last days of Jesus are heavy. The realities of these present days in the borderlands and the lives of those directly impacted by our nations immigration laws are almost too much to bear.

How can we open our hearts and minds to these hard things and not be overcome with grief and despair? We don’t want to miss this. But it can be hard to stay present, especially when we have a choice. Good Friday reminds us that God knows about suffering. God suffers with us. We are never separated from God. By anything or anyone. Where ever we go, God has already been there. What ever we might experience, God is already there.

We invite you to let the Holy Spirit be your guide as we walk and reflect and pray today. We invite you specifically to try what it is like to let your own holy breath teach and comfort you today.

Meditation and Teaching on breath and listening to God through our bodies, Kate Blair

Station 1: Outside the Federal Courthouse
Jesus is condemned to death
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew 26:57-66

“Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, ‘This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you? But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict? They answered, ‘He deserves death.’”

________

Jesus stands on trail with immigrants who can’t afford a lawyer. Who have no understanding of the language in which they are condemned. No right to council. Those with no way out. And no way to stay. Those who are tricked into signing deportation papers. And those who linger without a verdict for months and years because beaucracy has backed up. Jesus stands with anyone who faces a life with few choices. And Jesus stands with those who face death once they are deported. Death at the hands of violent lovers, homophobic gangs, drug cartels, and state inflicted violence.

Jesus stands alongside migrants condemned inside this building of stone and glass and steel. In chains, often without understanding what is happening, they stand. Guilty. Condemned. The verdict is in. The Powers have already decided the outcome before the trial begins.

We now will go inside the federal courthouse, into the lobby.

Station 2: Inside the federal building in the lobby
Jesus is denied by Peter
Luke 22: 54-62

“Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said. ‘This man also was with him.’

But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed.

Jesus turned and looked at Peter.

Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him at supper, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’

And Peter went out and wept bitterly.”

_________
It is easy to look away. To keep silent when the government and private prison corporations ignore the human rights and dignity of migrants. They are so powerful. We are so small. It is harder to speak out. We can easily forget and deny the pain of others. And it is an easy choice to disasociate ourselves from those deemed too radical or risky. We must save ourselves, right?

“How have I refused to stand in solidartity with immigrants and migrants?” When it is not our brother crossing in the desert or our mother in detention, we don’t feel the sting of dread and separation with every breath. We have the privilege to look away.

It wasn’t so much that Peter lied. In his culture saving face, to save honor, was often done at any cost. The real problem was he told Jesus he would always stand by him. And he didn’t. At baptism many Christians make promises. One promise is to respect the dignity of every human being. To stand with Jesus is to stand with those with the lowest status and least privilege. And it means working to create a world where the dignity of every human being is respected.

How will you feel when Jesus turns to look at you?

You are invited to recommit to these baptismal promises, by saying, “I will with God’s help”…

Leader:            Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as  yourself?
People:                       I will, with God’s help.

Leader:               Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People:                     I will, with God’s help.

We now go through the metal detectors and to the courtroom on the second floor

Station 3: Outside the courtroom, in the hallway
Jesus is judged by Pilate
Mark 15: 1-15

“As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. 6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.”

__________

A reading from Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh:

“In order to destroy Jesus, it became necessary for Jesus’ opponents first to destroy his standing in the eyes of the people. In all of the Gospels they do so through what anthropologists call “status degradation rituals.” The status degradation ritual is a process of publicly recasting, relabeling, humiliating, and thus recategorizing a person as a social deviant…A variety of social settings—trials, hearings, political rallies—can be the occasion or this destruction of a person’s public identity and credibility.”

We will now witness a modern status degradation ritual of immigrants.
This week 280 migrants have been sentenced inside this room. This afternoon 70 more will be.

Station 4: Outside the federal courthouse, in front
Jesus is Beaten
Mark 15: 16-20

“Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”

A reading from A Culture of Cruelty, Abuse and impunity in Short-term U.S. Border Patrol Custody, A report by No More Deaths, 2011.

Physical abuse by agents is commonly reported as a method of control or as punishment for asking for basic human rights such as speaking to an attorney, having medications returned, or receiving water. It is also used in conjunction with psychological torture, with many detainees reporting that agents threatened to kill them and leave their bodies in the desert while they were being beaten. Incidents frequently occur in the presence of other detainees to intimidate them and establish control.

Witnessing physical assault, particularly when the threat of death is included, is one of the precursors of post-traumatic stress disorder and can be as psychologically damaging to those who witness it as to those who endure it. Physical abuse was reported by 10 percent of interviewees. Rates of physical abuse did not differ by gender or age in the representative sample, meaning that children were as likely to be physically abused as adults. In general, the longer people were held in custody, the more likely they were to experience physical abuse.

Sept. 21, 2009, anonymous woman. She stated that she had lived in the U.S. for 17 years with three children. When her parents died in Mexico, she returned for the funeral, and was apprehended on July 23 near Nogales, Ariz., while trying to reenter the U.S. In the processing center, guards laughed at her for being Mexican. They had her strip naked; then they took her clothes and touched her breasts in the presence of both male and female guards. Her belongings were taken and not returned, including $20, jewelry, and make-up. She was detained for two months in Florence. She was given papers in English to sign, without a translator, and was deported Sept. 18 to Nogales, Sonora.


Feb. 16, 2010, anonymous man, 16, from Guatemala. He walked for two days until being apprehended by the Border Patrol. He was thrown to the ground and kicked in the knee. Agents took his $20 and hit him in the back of the head with a flashlight. As he told the story, he appeared confused about why they had beaten him. “They didn’t understand me and treated me like a dog,” he said. Agents joked about him, saying he was like a toy. They asked if he wanted water, but when he responded “yes,” they wouldn’t give him any. He was also taunted with food. Eventually, during three days in custody, he received a small packet of cookies and a small juice box each day.


Feb. 18, 2010, anonymous man from Sonora, Mexico. After three days in the desert, three Border Patrol agents apprehended him and his friend at about 10 a.m. on Feb. 15. The agents accused the interviewee of carrying drugs and beat him in the head with the butt of a pistol. He collapsed to the ground, bleeding heavily from a gash on the left side of his head. In the hospital, doctors treated his wound with staples. The doctor who treated him did not provide identification and upon release the interviewee did not receive any documents about his injury or treatment. After he was released from the hospital, the man and his friend were taken to Tucson and given deportation papers in English to sign. They received only juice and crackers to eat before they were deported on Feb. 18 to Nogales.

At the time of the interview, the friend, who had witnessed the assault, confirmed the interviewee’s testimony. The interviewee appeared to be in a state of shock.

We will now process in silence to the Greyhound bus station.

Station 5: Outside the Greyhound Bus station
Mark 15:21

“They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.”

Every week night ICE Agents pull up in a van in this spot and let formerly detained immigrants go who are free on bond or who have been granted asylum. Many of the men and women released here do not know where they are. Some have no idea how to buy a ticket. Some do not have money for the pay phone to call their families. Many rely on each other and passers-by to help them.

Volunteers from the Restoration Project come here to be present and offer assistance as needed. Volunteers have also witnessed the incredible generousity and kindness that people who have just been detained together show to one another. Volunteers have witnessed people pooling money to help buy a ticket for someone, sharing food they brought with them from commissary, offering rides to California, and inviting others to come and stay with them. Sometimes strangers, who are traveling, or dropping off family and friends also step in to lend a phone or answer a question.

As volunteers talk and listen with those dropped off here, sometimes one can actually witness a lifting of some of the anxiety. A dropped gaze transforms into a handshake and smile by the nights end. Fear fades from faces once a ticket is secured and laughter sometimes even breaks out. Isolation turns to sharing photos and stories of the children they hope to see at the other end of the long bus ride home.

We will now process to El Tiradito Shrine. El Tiradito means “The Castaway.”

Station 6: El Tiradito Shrine
Luke 23: 27-28

“A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Children also cross through the desert. Children witness ICE agents arresting their parents. Children are separated from their parents, some for months, some forever.

A reading from O, The Oprah magazine, April 2012 issue,
Hiding in Plain Sight: Inside the Life of an Undocumented Immigrant,”

By Allison Glock

“I didn’t used to think I was a criminal,” said [Anna, age 39. Anna lives in Tucson.]

“I was an immigrant like any other.” But perception has a way of being taken for fact. Anna has been called dirty. She has been told she is a “rat.” A “dog.” She has been snarled at by white checkout girls at the grocery, hissing at her to “speak English!” (She does.) At the park with her son, she has seen old men lift their jackets to reveal pistols tucked inside. She has been screamed at while walking down the street, told to get out of the U.S. She has been spit on in front of her children.

Parents hoping to stay in America with their American children must convince a judge the children would be better off with them around, something that should be as obvious as the sun, and yet, as attorney Claudia Arévalo explains, she has seen cases where the kids are funneled into foster care instead.

According to the Applied Research Center, the Obama administration deported more than 46,000 parents of children who are U.S. citizens in the first six months of last year, the fate of many, suddenly, a matter for the courts. Detainees are not told about the juvenile hearings, not that they could attend them even if they were. As a result, the children are typically alone in the courtroom. The results are predictably disastrous.

“We see the children dropping out of school. Depression. Regressive behaviors. Loss of appetite. Fear of leaving the home. Bed-wetting. Separation anxiety.”

Arévalo also represents children who were brought to America as infants. “They are 10, 12 years old. They are in shock. Their English is perfect. In court they say, ‘Why am I here? I thought I was American.’ And they say, ‘No, you came when you were a year old. Now you are in deportation proceedings.'” Her cases have doubled in the past two years.

Anna shares a story about how she and [her son] Ernie were picnicking with friends in the park when someone snapped a photograph of her.

“Ernie started crying, wailing. He was hysterical. I hugged him tight, tried to calm him. He said his friend’s parents had been taken because they were identified. He was terrified someone would see my picture and take me from him, too.”

Anna tried to tell her son there was no need to worry. Even as she did, she knew it was a lie.” (Read the rest at: http://www.oprah.com/)

You are invited to light candles and place prayers in the wall of the shrine.
As we walk to the final place, the church, where we will reflect on Jesus crucified, we will remember all those who have died walking through the desert of Arizona by reading the names of those whose remains have been recovered between October 1, 2011 and the end of February, 2012. 71 people. Most are unknown because the bodies were too badly decomposed to identify them.

In an effort to honor every life that has been lost on our borders, Coalición de Derechos Humanos records the number of bodies that are recovered in southern Arizona. With the cooperation of Arizona county officials, as well as the Consular offices of México, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Brazil, and the Binational Migration Institute, Derechos Humanos attempts to put names to our migrant sisters and brothers, and bear witness to the deaths of those unknown, of whom there are hundreds buried in our communities.

As we attempt to comfort their families who mourn, let us also promise to seek justice, peace, and an end to the walls that separate and divide our communities. May we honor the spirits of those who have died with the commitment to peace and dignity on our borders.

(from Derechos Humanos website: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net)

Station 7 Jesus is crucified, sanctuary of St. Andrew’s Episcopal church,
Mark 15:22 – 37

Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.

24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”

27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 28 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying,

“Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!”

31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying,

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.”

Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice,

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said,

“Listen, he is calling for Elijah.”

36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying,

“Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”

37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry

and breathed his last.

Musical reflection by De Vie Weinstock


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