Tonight 16 of us will be leaving on the Root Causes Pilgrimage. Each of us representing an organization, congregation or network:
Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Shura Council of Southern California, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, Sanctuary Movement and Pilgrim Place, Evangelical Covenant Church, Western Jurisdiction Latino Mission of the United Methodist Church, Congregational Church of San Mateo, Presbyterian Church USA, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship USA, Oakland Catholic Worker, Knoxville Allies with Immigrant Neighbors, University of San Francisco International and Multicultural Education, SHARE El Salvador and the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights-Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.
We call this journey a pilgrimage, drawing from ancient spiritual practices, as we will travel to not just find answers to our questions about “Root Causes to migration” but also to encounter the sacred, deepen our connections across the Americas, and renew our commitment for justice. We will be engaging in the holy act of listening to the stories of people who know first hand the reasons why their family members have had little choice but to migrate on a dangerous and arduous journey. We are going to learn, to heal and to connect our stories with theirs.
Often pilgrimages are about a “return” to a sacred and holy place. In this case, we are “returning” on behalf of many of our fellow neighbors and friends who cannot return, the many Central Americans who cannot go back to visit their relatives, hometowns and sacred places. They cannot return for fear of personal harm or violence, or because if they leave, they may not be able to return here to the US where they have made a home and a life for themselves.
For one of us going, Darlene Nicgorski, it will be a meaningful return. Darlene had to flee Guatemala under threat in 1980 after the priest in the parish where she was working was assassinated. She returned to the US and was actively engaged in the Sanctuary Movement, where she ended up standing trial and being convicted for her involvement. She famously said, “If I am guilty of anything, I am guilty of the gospel.” As part of her conviction, she was banned from returning to Central America for 5 years. This will be her first time back to Guatemala. (You can read more about her experience in the Sanctuary Movement here.)
We are excited to have the experience of religious leaders like Rev. Angie Wright and Tonya Barnette who have been working in Alabama and Tennessee fighting against harsh anti-immigrant laws and supporting the new migrant communities to the US South. We are excited about young faith leaders traveling with us who are embodying faith, activism and social justice, like Sarah Lee who works with college students through Intervarsity and Affad Shaikh, representing the Shura Council of Southern California, a network of mosques and Muslim organizations across Southern CA.
Pilgrimage is a collective experience. We journey together, experiencing together more than we could alone. So we invite you to join us, or on social media, or in our report backs when we come home!