Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bishops on the Border

In some respects, it may seem strange for me to go on a border experience with other bishops just before our House of Bishops meeting in Arizona. After all, I can leave my home and be in Tijuana in thirty minutes. However, when Kirk Smith, the bishop of Arizona invited us for a two-day visit on both sides of the border, I couldn't resist.

In the wake of the passage and signing of SB1070, it was particularly important for the bishop of San Diego to be in solidarity with the bishop of Arizona. Our two dioceses comprise a segment of the border where undocumented individuals continue to risk their lives crossing the desert in hope of a better life. Because of this San Diego and Arizona have been the areas in which hundreds upon hundreds have perished in an effort to come to our country.

In reality, the situations in the Diocese of Arizona and in the Diocese of San Diego are similar. Both economies depend on migrant labor. Both areas have people with passionate feeling on both sides of the issue of undocumented persons and immigration. What I saw, I have seen before: crosses in memory of those who died in the desert, border agents trying to compassionately enforce the law, citizens of two nations affected by unintended consequences of legislation often more informed by rhetoric than wisdom.

In our table conversation today, Bishop Smith asserted that the constellation of issues that we catalog as immigration comprise the civil rights challenge of our generation. This is our Selma, our Birmingham. Indeed.

In the next few days, our House of Bishops will continue our prayerful consideration of a response to what is happening along the line in the sand from our beaches heading eastward. This modern trail of tears demands our response in word and deed. It demands that we find our heart of hospitality.

Upon my return, I look forward to finding our voice and our response to these our brothers and sisters who suffer simply because of their place of birth. I fully expect this work to move us to theologically reflect on our posture towards other members of the human family who are affected directly and indirectly by our actions and inactions. As followers of Jesus Christ, how can we do anything less? Our primary alliance to Christ leaves us no other option.

The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes
Bishop of San Diego

Photo: A cross affixed to the border fence. Each little ribbon has the name of an individual who died attempting to cross the desert into the United States of America.


  1. I can't help but contrast your photograph with the one I took two weeks ago today at the Vermont, US/Canadian border, to where I had walked with no impediment or passport, where all there is is an obelisk (border marker 592), a wide swath of mowed grass and no visible difference between one country and the next. I moved freely between one country and the other. Granted, this border is in the midst of the Green Mountains and accessible only by foot (or ATV though they are banned on the Long Trail)... go a few more miles and there is now an imposing and intimidating border station where once there was a simple house. We states on the northern border watch the immigration debate because I think many of us do not want to see what has happened to the US/Mexican border take place up here. Thank you for your witness and your reflections. The HOB is in our prayers at Trinity, Rutland.

    Lee A. Crawford, Vermont

  2. We are all immigrants or the descendants thereof. Even the "Native Americans" came here from elsewhere. I pray that somehow our country can get over all this xenophobic nonsense and just be the children of God we all are.