I live in the desert. The high beautiful rugged Chihuahuan desert covering north central Mexico and the southwestern United States. My city lies on the shores of the Rio Grande river, or the Rio Bravo, depending which side you are on, a river meandering over 3,000 kilometers from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. As the river passes through our region, the sister cities of El Paso and Ciudad Júarez, it abruptly becomes the dividing line between the United States and Mexico, and remains the dividing line for the rest of its journey, snaking another 2,000 kilometers to the south and east.
The river, a source of sustenance and beauty and rest and life in the desert, has been transformed into a wall of division. A wall defining specific boundaries and separating those who are in from those who are out and those who are out from those who are in. Until about 60 years ago the river would still meander when it flooded, changing its pathway, as if to defy efforts to control the line. Yet in more recent years it has become increasingly channelized and fortified.
Like so many places in the world, our region has been affected by waves of colonization. First the Spaniards swept through in the late 1500’s, subjugating the many native tribes in the area. Then it became part of the newly formed nation of Mexico after independence from Spain. The United States wrested control of the area from Mexico in 1848 as part of its effort to expand westward in order to span from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. It is not uncommon to hear someone in these parts say “I didn’t cross the border. The border crossed me.” What once was connected is now divided. And the dividing wall keeps being built higher in an effort to emphasize this division.
And yet the twin cities of El Paso in the United States and Ciudad Júarez in Mexico are so intricately intertwined. There is a shared heritage, a mix of culture, of language, of music, of food, of commerce, of humor. Family members live on both sides of the border, sometimes crossing daily for work or for school, or to visit their grandparents and shop. Many children in my neighborhood spend their weekends on the other side of town, which happens to be in another country. We are so interconnected. And yet there is a wall dividing us, and the contrasts are stark.
The El Paso-Juarez metropolis represents a microcosm of so many of the issues facing our world today, and the issues facing so many of us as members of Micah Global. A world increasingly divided between those who have so much and those who have very little. A world where political, military, economic, and often religious interests combine to move forward in ways that make sense for the powerful, but have dire consequences for the vulnerable. How do we respond to larger issues of power, injustice, religiously-sanctioned oppression, stark income inequality, nationalism, racial tensions, historical trauma, current trauma, and, in some instances, the marriage of Christianity and empire?
In our context, we struggle daily with what it means to live and walk in the way of Jesus in the midst of these forces. How do we act justly? How do we love mercy? How do we walk humbly with our God? How do we speak truth and bring to light that which is hidden? How do we love our neighbors? How do we embody a wholistic, integrated Gospel?
Many questions remain, and yet, along with the global family of Micah, we know that inspired ways forward emerge as we fall to our knees, develop friendships, listen deeply to our neighbors, draw close to the margins, elevate voices of the hurting, cry out in agony with those who suffer, leverage what we have, and open up opportunities for learning and encounters. And somewhere along the journey we regain a sense of our interconnectedness despite the barriers separating us.Sami DiPasquale Micah Global Board Member, Executive Director of Abara El Paso, Texas, USA