by The Rev. Canon David Ulloa Chavez
“This year, we are also mindful that LGBTQ people in many countries are in additional danger. They are often threatened because of who they are, persecuted, and fleeing persecution”Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, Message Commemorating World Refugee Day
Last week, on my way to visit our shelter in Nogales, Sonora, I jumped on a Zoom call (I was not driving but riding in the back of our Cruzando Fronteras van) with Deacon Edwin Rodriguez member of our diocesan LGBTQ committee, and Max Niedzwiecki, who is leading Episcopal Migration Ministries’ Rainbow Initiative. According to Max, “The Rainbow Initiative is Episcopal Migration Ministries’ response to General Convention 2022 Resolution D045 “On Supporting LGBTIQ+ Refugees and Asylum Seekers”, which directed the Episcopal Church to promote support for people who have fled their countries because of persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and/or sex characteristics.” Surrounded by the scent of fruits and fresh veggies, I wanted Max and Edwin to meet with the hope of finding ways to collaborate with church-wide efforts to address the forced migration of LGBTQ+ migrants: it was a joy to see Edwin and Max connect and discuss a partnership marked by mutual learning and of elevating and advocating on behalf of LGBTQ+ migrants that have suffered forced migration. Max shared the staggering numbers of LGBTQ+ forced migrants across the world and the growing number of church communities stepping up to walk and stand with our LGBTQ+ siblings through, the Rainbow Initiative Congregations network (for more on how to join this network, click here).
After our meeting, I circled back with Edwin just to debrief. Que piensas, Edwin/what were your impressions? Edwin shared that the Rainbow Initiative provides a great opportunity to be part of a broader network of churches across ecumenical lines, provides some valuable Spanish and English language educational and liturgical resources, and some advocacy opportunities across the church.
“I want to be clear that the trans and nonbinary community is not a group that stands outside the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. We have trans and nonbinary clergy, postulants, and members of our congregations. They are part of the Body of Christ, and when one part of the Body is injured, we are all injured.”Pastoral Letter from the Right Reverend Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona
The words of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and our Bishop Jennifer Reddall, capture the urgent call to stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ siblings facing, both locally and globally “increasing legal oppression and violence” and for many coming to our southern borders, forced migration. To stand with and for our LGBTQ+ siblings in AZ., is to stand with and for our LGBTQ+ siblings across the world!
Coming up a steep hill in Colonia Bella Vista (Beautiful View) toward the entrance gate of the La Casa de Misericordia, it was moving to see, above the many trees that dot that shelter property, the campus flag pole with the Mexican flag and Pride flag dancing in the wind—truly a casa para todos! Earlier this year a group of LGBTQ+ shelter residents, mainly from Venezuela, gifted La Casa the Pride flag that now serves as a public witness and reminder of radical welcome and love. As I was leaving the shelter, I was reminded of Sister Lika’s words, “aqui en La Casa de Misericordia, los migrantes LGBTQ+ tienen un espacio donde son afrimados y amados; un lugar donde pueden esperar con dignidad/Here at The House of Mercy LGBTQ+ migrants have a space where they are affirmed and loved; a place where they can wait with dignity.”