Today is Maundy Thursday, the day we remember Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. And while they were eating he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
The Obama administration began 2016 with massive, nationally coordinated raids. In Chicago, those directly affected could not remain silent. And neither could their community.
On Tuesday, February 16th artists, activists, and allies of all kinds gathered early in the morning to rehearse the carefully planned choreography of a multi-team action that would soon take place in front of the Immigration Customs Enforcement office on 101 Congress.
The action was set into motion by Organizing Communities Against Deportation (OCAD) with the support of allies such as Assata’s Daughters and Not One More. Members of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America and Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ were also there to support, from peacekeeping to arrest. The direct action was in many ways the embodiment of what is possible when movements for justice intersect, when the Kin-dom of Heaven is made real. That is, when we remember that our individual struggles are in fact, collective struggles inextricably linked by our multi-layered histories and identities. None of us are free if one of us is chained.
This is why the message of “Dismantle ICE/Defund Police” resonated with so many (perhaps, too many) in the city of Chicago. From migrants and refugees fleeing economic instability, violence and war—escaping long enough to have their homes raided, to be tricked out of churches, detained and deported; to Black and Brown youth fleeing violence at the hands of police—assumed guilty before they are caught or questioned. Instead, it’s shoot to kill, 16 times, followed by a cover-up. Were you there?
This is the question we are faced with every time a sister or brother is crucified. Were you there? As a pastor and theologian, I use the language of crucifixion to name the act of public humiliation and murder that started with the Roman Empire and continues even today. Were you there?
Too many of us stand by while our Black and Brown, undocumented, queer, immigrant sisters and brothers lose their lives at the hands of the State. As people of faith, we have a particular call to welcome the stranger, protect the orphan and the widow, and to take action when anyone among us is being harmed—whether it be by racial profiling, detention, incarceration, or other forms of crucifixion.
For those of us who identify as Christian, we find ourselves in the midst of Holy Week with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday soon to follow. It is a time that is preceded by 40 days of reflection and repentance and begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. This entry was also a carefully planned direct action against the empire—an utter rejection of their militaristic display of state power and abuse. And yes, it resulted in Jesus’ protest followed by his betrayal, arrest, torture, and crucifixion.
However, we need not wait until Good Friday to give witness to the Crucifixion of our Christ. Crucifixion happens everyday at the hands of the state, every time we turn away from the violence done to our sisters and brothers. When we do not take action that too is betrayal. And in this modern Holy Week narrative, we must ask ourselves, will we follow Jesus or Judas? Will we give into the temptation of fear and shortsightedness or be of good courage, holding fast to that which is just?