Ambassadors of Reconciliation (May 2010)
01 May 2010

The Arizona – Mexico border. (Robert Dolan, S.J. for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
Last November a group of JRS directors met in Sri Lanka, a country that has suffered from a long and bloody civil war, to reflect on how reconciliation is part of the ministry of Jesuit Refugee Service. We began by recounting personal experiences of the need and longing for reconciliation from our ministry with refugees or forced migrants.
Reflections for prayer
By Fr. Ken Gavin, S.J.
National Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Last November a group of JRS directors met in Sri Lanka, a country that has suffered from a long and bloody civil war, to reflect on how reconciliation is part of the ministry of Jesuit Refugee Service. We began by recounting personal experiences of the need and longing for reconciliation from our ministry with refugees or forced migrants.

I recalled that in early 2007, while I was visiting the Arizona–Mexico border, a young 22 year-old Mexican, named Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera, was shot and killed by a U.S. border patrol agent. Shortly before the shooting, Francisco had crossed the border into Arizona from Mexico with two brothers and a young sister-in-law. As a youngster in Mexico, his family had lived in a one-room wooden shack that had begun to collapse by the time he was a teenager. He had left Mexico for the U.S. when he was 17, determined to earn enough money to build his family. Little by little over the next five years he had succeeded in saving enough to build the beginnings of a new home for his family in Cuautla, Mexico. When he returned to Mexico in 2006, he stayed two months before returning to the U.S. so that he could make enough money to finish the kitchen.

Little is known about the actual facts of the killing. None of the four Mexicans were armed but, for one reason or another, the agent felt threatened by the group of young migrants. We will probably never know what exactly happened, but we can surmise that Francisco and his brothers were deeply frightened by the agent who symbolized the destruction of their hopes and dreams. No doubt, the agent felt himself threatened by these young migrants who might be criminals, drug smugglers or even terrorists. I imagine that what happened on the border that day in January 2007 was simply the result of a destructive barrier of misunderstanding, discrimination and fear. Both the young Mexicans and the agent became victims of a broken system. Two days after the killing, I celebrated Mass in a detention center north of Tucson. In the rear of the room, I was introduced to Francisco’s two brothers, lost and brokenhearted as they quietly wept for their brother.

In the confusion and the sadness of this experience I felt myself called more than ever before to see and love the world as Jesus did and to share his ministry of reconciliation. Jesus’ invitation to reconciliation knew no boundaries. He dealt with the powerful, challenging them to a change of heart. He showed special love for the poor. He constantly proclaimed the kingdom of God that became for him a vision for a world in which all relationships are reconciled in God.

As I recall the events surrounding Francisco Javier Dominguez’ death at the border, I remember the words of Pope John Paul II as he spoke of the longing for reconciliation in all our lives:

“Some consider reconciliation as an impossible dream which ideally might become the lever for a true transformation of society. For others it is to be gained by arduous efforts and therefore a goal to be reached through serious reflection and action. Whatever the case, the longing for sincere and consistent reconciliation is without a shadow of doubt a fundamental driving force in our society, reflecting an irrepressible desire for peace. And it is as strongly so as the factors of division, even though this is a paradox. But reconciliation cannot be less profound than the division itself. The longing for reconciliation and reconciliation itself will be complete and effective only to the extent that they reach-in order to heal it-that original wound which is the root of all other wounds: namely sin.”



Scripture for reading
2 Corinthians 5: 14-20

For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died.

He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him

who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation,

namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.