By Amy Westphal, ARISE Staff
Recently I read an essay by Jon Sobrino, SJ (“The Samaritan Church and the Principle of Mercy,” in The Way of Mercy). He writes that mercy is not a sentiment; it is an action. Though mercy is a re-action to suffering, it must also be transformative. All human suffering merits absolute respect and calls for a response.
Founded on the charism of mercy, ARISE—which promotes the personal development and empowerment of the immigrant community—is a witness to the daily reality of children who are separated from their families.
Here at the border there are many situations occurring at once. Media has shared stories and images of the separation of children from their parents due to the U.S. immigration processes. This has impacted those who have most recently crossed the U.S. border and who are being charged with the “zero tolerance” policy. Parents are enduring mass trials with no access to gather evidence in support of their cases. Detention centers and holding facilities are closed from public entrance. Those whom we directly serve at ARISE have not encountered this inhumane act; however, some families on the border live daily in fear of deportation and separation from their children or parents.
Mercy is an action. When we cannot act through direct service, we act through advocacy. Our re-action to suffering must be transformative; therefore, we envision a world where there are no borders and human dignity is a priority, not a commodity. This transformative re-action invokes a stance of resistance to any power that is anti-mercy and exclusive. We must envision a humane life within the countries where people are now fleeing, as well as the places where we welcome immigrants.
Transformative action begins with identifying the values that guide your life. No matter your faith, if you direct your life toward a God of love, then how do your daily decisions cultivate a mirror of this God of love? What discipline is present in your practice that deconstructs what you encounter and helps you decide how you will embody a culture of resistance? When you ask, “What can I do?” let your response first cultivate an art of resistance within yourself. Second, let it put voice and action to your imagination for a better world; an example of this might be contacting those who are in political office. And third, let it encourage whatever community with which you surround yourself (place of employment, neighborhood or other living spaces, church, any group with whom you gather) to embody a culture of mercy and love. “Mercy makes our hearts spacious; it also mercies the space around us. Mercy becomes the space we live in” (Sister Elaine M. Prevallet, SL).
In addition to being on the staff of ARISE, Amy Westphal will enter the Sisters of Mercy this August.