Exactly one week from today I’ll be embarking, together with over 70 delegates representing diverse religious traditions and advocacy organizations, on a “Root Causes Pilgrimage” to Honduras. I’m very honored to participate in this important project, sponsored by SHARE – El Salvador and the Bay Area-based Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. and look forward to sharing my experiences with readers in the weeks ahead.
By way of background: this delegation was organized largely in response to an invitation from Fr. Melo, a Jesuit priest and Director of Radio Progreso/ERIC – one of the leading research, communications and movement building organizations in Honduras. It is also timed to mark the 39th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Oscar Romero – and to take part in a theological forum to reflect on St. Romero’s message for today’s Honduran context.
Our itinerary will include:
• Listening and meeting with grassroots and religious partners in Honduras to more deeply understand the regional root causes of migration and hear recommendations of solutions that would help to end forced migration and displacement.
• Meetings with relatives of missing migrants, those who have been deported from the US, parents of children not yet reunited, and those seeking to support them.
• Deepening solidarity with faith communities and NGO’s in Central America working to welcome those deported, to reunify families and to provide “sanctuary in the south.
• Providing accompaniment and solidarity with Honduran communities who are fighting root causes of displacement, including land and water defenders, indigenous communities and those protecting human rights.
In the past months we have witnessed the courage and determination of Central American sisters and brothers traveling north in numbers searching for safety and peace. Now, more than ever, it is clear we must shine a light on the forces that compel individuals to leave their homes in desperate search for protection and survival. This is not a time to militarize or close our borders. It is a time to open our eyes and come face to face with our own country’s complicity in the root causes of migration which have compelled thousands to leave their countries.
During our orientation for this delegation, organizers have stressed the spiritual concept of “pilgrimage” as a central driving force of our visit:
Pilgrimage is about reconnection with each other, with our ancestors, with mystery and the depth of life. It is not an escape like tourism but a returning to the center of pivotal events, embedded in the land itself.
It is also not a viewing of an “other” people, but regaining awareness of our deep connections and “common context of struggle.” The postcolonial pilgrim’s journey seeks restoration towards a regained wholeness by a re-centering, re-entering and recovery of history; it is a rediscovery that we are part of a living and vital collective memory. We remember in order to heal, to recover memory, to decolonize ourselves, to restore our deeper souls. Pilgrimage is a collective experience. We journey together, experiencing together more than we could alone.
We use pilgrimage to describe the way we will journey as a community and how we come to Honduras. It’s different than a tour, but is grounded in a spiritual practice that enables us to encounter the sacred in places of suffering. It encourages us to consider our own spiritual journey to heal and to learn and discover how we connect our stories with stories of the people we meet.
Our journey will include many visionary faith leaders and activists – and I’m particularly grateful to be joined by Rabbis Lynn Gottlieb (Berkeley) and Josh Whinston (Ann Arbor) to help bring a dimension of Jewish witness on our journey.
Again, I look forward to sharing my experiences with you here – please stay tuned for more.