Stacey Merkt was a lay worker at Casa Romero, a halfway house for refugees in San Benito, Texas, when this article appeared.—The Editors
El Salvador's war has already claimed 40,000 lives. But our government has taken the stance that Salvadoran "illegals" are economic, not political, refugees, and therefore have no right to be here. Despite stories and statistics to the contrary, our government doesn't believe they have a "well-founded fear of persecution" that would entitle them to political asylum here.
Meanwhile refugees keep coming with the same story of their government's organized killing and repression. Where are our ears to hear and to respond? I am appalled at the inhumanity I see. I am standing in the belly of the beast, a monster we've created. And we've been eaten. I will not stay in; I will not allow others to be eaten.
The core that sustains me is the still, small voice. It is God whom I wish to hear. The small voice encourages me to live out my faith—the biblical mandate to love. I am not to love in mere words. I am to put my body where my mouth is.
It's an upside-down world these days. But a right-side-up world happens when I lay down my life, risk myself out of love for my brothers and sisters. I am not to close my heart to them, or to anyone.
This earth is a sacred place—it and all the life it contains. We have created refuges to protect the life that we in our blindness destroy: bird refuges, endangered species lists, houses for battered women, places safe from violence. At one time this country was a refuge for people fleeing persecution. Where now is the refuge for those people?
"When an alien resides in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for them as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God" (Leviticus 19:33-34).