He was born in Mexico, but has lived in our country for 30 years and worked at a neighboring synagogue for 20. He worked hard and did his job well. He cared not only for the building, but also for the people who came and went there. He is a husband and a father and a grandfather. And, a member of our community.
About 6 months ago, because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time he was arrested. He was later cleared of any wrong doing and released because he was not involved in the disturbance, but his name was in the system. Then ICE arrived. Now he waits in a detention center for an immigration hearing. Despite a job and a family and overwhelming community support, because of current policy, he will most likely be deported. This makes little sense on so many levels.
Last night the community gathered on the front steps of the synagogue where he worked to offer their public support to his family and to do what we could to make our voices heard. I was privileged to be a part of that gathering and was asked to deliver the opening prayer. This is what I wrote:
In the midst of our sadness.
This evening, let us begin here.
With a moment of silence as we wrap both our prayers and our lives around Armando and his desire and efforts to return home. And also around his family. Around Silvia. And Armando, Jr. And, Ulisis. And, their desire and hope and dream to, once again, stand together as a family.
And, allowing that moment of silence to linger a bit longer…
Let us find the courage and the vision to make the circle larger.
And include those who take fathers and mothers away from their families and children away from their parents and those who oversee detention centers and those who refuse to see the humanity in those who look different or who speak a different language or who practice a different religion or who are from a different country. For, they, too, need to be in the circle of our concern for we dare not forget this reminder.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.
And, hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
And, before our moment of silence ends let us include our community.
And our nation.
Too often backed into our separate corners.
Broken in so many ways.
Fearful about so much.
And, finally, let us include ourselves.
And each other.
Here this evening because we care about Armando and his family.
And about too many others like them.
Here because we long for something else and work for something more.
Here because we find ourselves leaning forward towards what might be, but is not yet.
Let us take a moment of silence to wrap our prayers and our lives…
Around each other.
And around our community and our country.
And around those who see life and world differently than we do.
And around Armando.
And Armando, Jr.
And, may our lives follow where our prayers first lead.