June 29, 2018
By Aaron Weaver
MCALLEN, TEXAS — CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter joined a group of prominent Christian women clergy June 26-28 in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border to advocate on behalf of families who have been separated due to the “zero tolerance” immigration policy of the Trump Administration.
Paynter formed a ‘prayer chain’ with the women faith leaders around the McAllen Station Processing Center on Wednesday in McAllen, Texas, in a show of solidarity with these separated families. The delegation joined together in prayer for the women and children who have been detained and separated from one another, as well as all immigrants crossing the border hoping to secure safe passage and asylum.
“In Exodus, the midwives are ordered by Pharaoh to destroy children, and they say, ‘No!’…It is not in our faith, it is not in God’s heart to separate families. Today, remember the wailing of mothers and the cries of their children,” Paynter said.
The delegation also visited a Catholic Charities respite center in McAllen where families released from Customs and Border Protection detention centers come to prepare for the next part of their journey.
Paynter and the delegation participated in events on June 26 at a court house in El Paso where parents are being arraigned, as well as in the small border town of Tornillo where many children are being detained.
While standing in front of the border wall in Tornillo, Paynter shared a message in a video shared on social media.
“This wall behind me is steel. It is tall. It is strong and it is intended now, with the capricious policy built on the backs of children, to separate mothers and children, families from their children,” Paynter said. “I stand at this wall today and remember Jesus standing himself at the wall, the wall of Jerusalem, calling out and saying ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Oh if I could bring you together like a hen gathers her chicks.’ He was lamenting for the deafness of the city against the word of God.”
Paynter also took part alongside CBF leaders in a prayer vigil on June 24 in Brownsville, Texas. The group of Cooperative Baptists gathered near the U.S.-Mexico border and declared “not on our watch” to forces that use children’s freedom as a deterrent to parents who seek safety for their daughters and sons in the United States.
They prayed, read Scripture and sang while standing beside the largest immigrant detention center in the country, which houses more than 1,000 children and teenagers. Fellowship Southwest, a new regional network of CBF, organized the vigil in partnership with eight other groups concerned for immigrants. They sought justice for more than 2,300 children separated from their parents by “zero tolerance” policy.
“We are awash in global migration,” Paynter said at the prayer vigil. “The image of God in each child brings us to a point of remorse for the separation of these children—children of promise.”
Christians must hold a paradoxical tension—“be the people of God in a world of laws,” she added. “We can do both.”
Paynter’s trip to the border comes following a June 18 statement from her and other CBF leaders decrying the unjust separation of children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border and the misappropriation of the Gospel to support it.
“The policy of ripping children from the arms of parents is outrageous, and quoting Scripture in its defense is heinous,” Paynter said. “While it is necessary to control the flow of immigrants and refugees into the country, the use of tactics meant to traumatize and inflict irreparable harm to children and their parents is un-American and certainly do not appear anywhere in the Bible I read.”
Paynter will share about her experiences advocating on behalf of immigrant children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border on a special July 2 episode of the CBF Podcast. Subscribe and listen at www.cbf.net/podcast.
- CBF leaders join chorus of voices against ‘outrageous,’ ‘heinous’ border policy (June 18, CBF)
- ‘Not on our watch,’ Cooperative Baptists say of immigrant family separation (June 25, CBF)
- “Opposition to ‘zero tolerance’ must go grassroots, organizers say” (June 28, Baptist News Global)
*All photos courtesy of Faith in Public Life
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.