By Jennifer Piper, AFSC Colorado Interfaith Organizing Director
The Clergy Witness Network that I have been working to organize had its launch breakfast in September; 59 clergy attended and 47 of them committed to participating in the Network. The true test of the Network’s commitment to stand as allies came in December after a young man named Joaquin Luna took his own life, citing his undocumented status as a barrier to pursuing his dreams. In the face of so much despair, local youth wanted to honor Joaquin’s struggle and show other undocumented youth that they are not alone, that a whole community of faith and allies stands alongside them in their struggle.
Youth members of Metro Organizations for People invited the Clergy Witness Network to participate in a Prayer Circle to help undocumented youth stay strong in the face of continued inaction from Congress, to bless them with prayers of protection and strength and community, and to show them that they are not alone. AFSC, the Clergy Witness Network and Metro Organizations for People joined together to answer their call to provide prayer, protection and support in the face of hopelessness.
The day of the Prayer Circle more than 20 youth led us through the event. Several shared their experiences being undocumented, including the fear that they would be taken from their younger siblings and their parents. The youth also shared their analysis of a situation that trapped their parents into migrating and them into being caught between two worlds.
The youth formed a circle and about 40 clergy from our Network laid their hands on the shoulders of a young person; 80 laypeople and allies laid their hands on the shoulders of the clergy. As we stood together ten interfaith clergy each offered up a brief prayer or blessing, some in English and some in Spanish. The prayers provided an outlet of expression for grief and fear and hope and community, and many people released cleansing tears as the blessings continued.
Most impactful to me was to see clergy and youth introducing themselves to one another, both before and after the event, and exchanging hugs and handshakes. We built relationships and trust that day that will flourish as the movement grows and matures with these young people. The youth did an amazing job putting out the call, the clergy called to our deepest nature and our sense of Oneness, and we are stronger for the next step on the journey to justice and peace.