A World Beyond Borders Seder – sponsored by Jewish Voices for Peace
Good evening, my name is Sarah Lee and I am a campus minister at the University of San Francisco with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and a member of SF Chinese Alliance Church. I am second generation Cantonese-American, whose parents and grandparents were themselves migrants through five different countries. The same forces of exclusion, fear, and racism that impacted my family and Chinese communities, continue to affect migrant people today. Though our stories are vastly different, there is a need to name and dismantle these forces, but also to celebrate migrant resilience across the world. This fighting and celebrating continues to move my work in migrant rights. Thank you all for having me today to celebrate this seder with you, especially with this important theme of a world beyond borders.
In August 2015, I joined Rev. Deborah Lee on a delegation with 14 other faith leaders from across the U.S. to learn more about root causes of migration in Central America. We spent 10 days total in Guatemala and Honduras, meeting indigenous communities, families of disappeared migrants, deported persons, activists, and religious leaders. These were our neighbors, fighting for the right to stay in their home countries with dignity, as well as fighting for the right to move and travel with dignity.
In this pilgrimage we learned that root causes of migration run deep. Headlines and narratives, seen in the U.S., often touch surface topics such as violence from gangs and poverty. However, on this delegation we heard more consistently about the violence on the land, state violence, as well as U.S.-inflicted violence through our military aid, recent and historical U.S. backed coups, and participation in extractive industries.
Today I’d like to share one story, about a Garifuna community we met in the coastal town of Tela, Honduras. Their ancestral migration story, from West and Central Africa to the Caribbean islands to Honduras has been that of constant displacement, racism, and persecution.
This Garifuna community had been facing constant threats of eviction from Honduran police and military. We learned from leaders that 156 families had already been displaced by one tourist project, promoted by big business and the State of Honduras. The Garifuna were considered “invaders” in their own home, being denied fishing and gathering access to nature reserves. Not surprisingly, Garifuna migration has increased to the U.S. in the past years.
Our delegation team asked one of the leaders: How do you see yourselves in Honduras?
The leader answered: “We are humiliated, pained, rejected. They use us for sports, for our culture, but we have no rights here. We will not take up arms but we will no longer be pushed from our land. We will die here.”
This story of the Garifuna people highlight a theme that links violence on the land, therefore people, with state violence, from both Honduran and U.S. government through our military aid and our participation in the privatization of land.
Through visits and conversation with communities like the Garifuna, our Guatemalan and Honduran neighbors offered our delegation team root responses to these root causes of migration. One overarching call to us was to embrace co-responsibility for the forced migration of their people.
One practice of co-responsibility we will be taking is sending another delegation this December for international accompaniment of Honduran activists who worked closely with Berta Cáceres — who many of you know was killed in her fight to protect indigenous land. We would like to extend an invitation to you here today to be part of this delegation as well. You can find me afterwards to learn more details.
The work to realize a world without border means confronting our bordered reality and its effects on the migrant body not only here in the U.S. and but also from where they have come. Let us practice implications of co-responsibility as we continue to reflect on themes of this seder today. Thank you.