Witness for Peace is an interdenominational peace with justice organization that led efforts in the U.S. to educate Americans on the issues involved in the U.S. involvement in civil wars in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. One of its strategies was to operate a practical program to impede the marauding by the U.S. government-supported Contras into the Nicaraguan territory bringing Americans to the northern border of Nicaragua into conflictive zones, actually putting people at some risk if there were battles. This proved to have some effectiveness and certainly woke up the participants to the reality of Nicaragua and the errors of the U.S. policy.
A song that was sung by Witness for Peace long term team members and taught to the short termers who came for ten days to two weeks to learn about the reality of life in Nicaragua was “No Basta Rezar.” The chorus is “No,no, no basta rezar, hacen falta muchas cosas para conseguir la paz.” “No, no, no it isn’t enough just to pray, many things are needed to secure peace.”
I am reminded of this thought when I chat with my well-intentioned sisters and brothers about what is going on at the border and the individual dramas of our sojourners at the Holding Institute who come to our door for clean clothes, hot showers, a snack, a new pair of shoes, a time of rest while their children play. It is good to pray for each one of them. It is good to think of people praying for the volunteers involved in this humanitarian relief effort. It is good to pray for the situation.
However, that prayer should motivate us to act. Perhaps it will sound more familiar if I remind you of these words from the Old Testament. “And what does the Lord require of you, O mortal, but to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It is time to “do justice.” Prayer can help us to discern the will of God. Prayer can help us gather strength to do hard work. Prayer can help us feel God’s power within us. But without praxis, right action, we do not take advantage of all that prayer has to offer. What can we do as a response to our concerns?
Let us remind our elected officials that the events of this summer, including the rising numbers of children and teens coming as unaccompanied minors, are signals that there is a refugee crisis going on. These are red flags that there are failed states in Central America. This should provide impetus to get us involved in contacting our congressional delegations and reminding them that we want comprehensive immigration reform without any excuses. We want to see DACA expanded. We want to see the Central Americans with temporary protected status placed on a path toward legalization so that they can unite their families. We don’t want to see changes in the Trafficking Victim’s Reauthorization Act that would strip away protections of unaccompanied minors to due process hearings.
Yes, by all means pray. And pray that God will strengthen your resolve to act for justice.