As we sat together in circles of light, we also lit candles for those we love and situations we want to remember. My mind drifted back over the news of the week: Honduras, Colombia, Israel/Palestine. As we celebrate divine journeys, I focus on a little reported news story.
A group of Central America mothers are currently travelling across Mexico, searching for their disappeared children. Every year since 2004, these women have engaged in a desperate pilgrimage, following the footsteps of their missing loved ones. Their children disappeared somewhere along the different migrant routes from Central America, through Mexico, and possibly into the United States. Border militarization through Plan Frontera Sur has pushed migrants to seek increasingly dangerous routes to avoid detention and deportation by authorities. Many migrants are never heard from again once they leave home.
The women, carrying photos of their children on placards around their necks, travel across Mexico, stopping in migrant shelters and prisons, and advocating towards local authorities. They follow up on reports of mass graves and seek answers for their missing. Together, they also light candles for their own journey, and the journey of their children. In thirteen years, they have found over 270 missing migrants. As they march along train tracks, they demand justice. Whether or not they find their loved ones (dead or alive), their journey is heartrendingly brave.
I am a firm believer in ritual, not because it changes the world, but because it changes my ability to shape the world. The simple act of lighting a candle on December 7th express a willingness to actively participate in bringing about of the Christmas story every year. The Mothers of Central America move ritual into a new reality: each step is not simply commemoration, but an actual search. Yet each step taken towards justice brings more determination. The Caravan's motto is Trece Años de Lucha y Esperanza (Thirteen Years of Struggle and Hope). Action brings hope; hope brings action. Karen Armstrong reminds us that, throughout history:
“Action, behavior, especially compassionate behavior, is more important than thinking. By constantly exercising compassion, the golden rule, you enter a different state of consciousness. This rather than thinking will get you to enlightenment.”