Tomorrow night in Santa Monica, CA, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity will celebrate of the work and witness Moises Escalante (right), legend in the work of immigrant justice and immigration reform. This is an excerpt about Moises’ life from “From Immigrant to Immigrant Justice Organizer: Moises Escalante,” in Our God is Undocumented: Biblical Faith and Immigrant Justice by Matthew Colwell and Ched Myers:
In 1988, Moises was asked to come to the Salvadoran village of Morazan to observe the pastoral work taking place in that impoverished war zone. When he first received the invitation, he thought this was crazy. “You want me to go to a place where guerillas control the area and are under attack?” As he thought it over, he recalled the words from Ephesians that God wants the church to “awaken!” Reluctantly, he agreed to travel to Morazan for a ten-day trip. Getting there was no easy feat. After flying into San Salvador, he was put on a bus and told to wait until a person came up to him and asked, “How’s your house?” That person would be his next contact.
Along the bus route there were frequent checkpoints, and when asked where he was going and why, Moises replied that he was visiting his godfather in San Anotnio El Mosco, a town (unlike Morazan) free of guerilla associations. At the end of the three-hour bus ride they walked for five hours. After enduring a downpour and further checkpoints, they arrived at a small village close to midnight, soaked and exhausted. At 5am he awoke to shouts of “the soldiers are coming” and quickly got on the road toward the next village. Three days later, Moises finally entered Morazan, with the pastoral team eager to meet with him. One member of that team was Rogelio Poncel, another Fr. Miguel Ventura, a Salvadoran priest who had been tortured for his ministry in communities like this one. Moises listened as they shared with him their struggle to live and support each other while under attack by the military, “It is our faith that keeps us going,” they said.
At 2am that first night, Moises awoke to the sound of rockets in the distance. He had been sleeping fitfully on the floor of a small church where, he had learned upon arrival, a helicopter had recently dropped a bomb, destroying its main door. With that in mind, it had been difficult for Moises to sleep. He stepped outside to see where the blasts might be coming from, and off in the distance he saw three helicopters firing away. After watching for a short while, he went back to sleep, awakening again two hours later. He stepped outside to see small dots of light punctuating the darkness. He thought at first it must be a swarm of fireflies, but as his eyes adjusted, he realized they were the tips of cigarettes; members of the popular guerilla army were gathered and making plans for the day. He learned that a few of them had been part of the shooting exchanged with the helicopters earlier…
…A young village boy showed Moises a piece of shrapnel with the words “made in the USA” printed on it. As he talked with those who had lost sons and daughters, the impact of the civil war weighed even heavier on his heart. He left Morazan with a renewed commitment to the churches in El Salvador and to bringing an end to the war.