Washington, D.C. — Rev. Ryan M. Eller, executive director of Define American, joined hundreds of clergy and religious leaders of all faiths in a march on the White House today. Moral Witness Wednesday, in solidarity with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, Repairers of the Breach, the Poor People’s Campaign, and faith leaders from across the nation, is delivering a clear message to the Trump administration that enough is enough.
We, hundreds of faith leaders from around the nation, come today to reclaim the moral narrative of our nation. As the writer of Luke suggested, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” The clergy marching today have counted the cost of rising xenophobia, mass detention of children and families, and myriad other evils wrought by this administration. We do not recognize the walls our nation is building and will put our bodies on the line to correct course.
Define American signed on to the national Poor People’s Campaign a year ago, proudly representing the immigrant freedom movement. Our chapters network, the largest campus-based network of its kind in the nation, participated in acts of solidarity for this massive moral movement to ensure that immigrant and ally voices were central to our case. My participation in today’s moral witness amplifies that commitment.
Define American’s membership consists of brave allies from all walks of life and ideological persuasions. A majority of our supporters are also new Americans — undocumented people, as well as residents and citizens — and many young people who don’t have the privileges of citizenship or white identity that I have. When I march and act alongside people of good conscience, I do so because my faith requires it, and because I can do so with somewhat less risk than members of the Define American family with less privilege.
As citizens like Scott Warren, acquitted this week of federal crimes for providing water to migrants, demonstrate, the burden of bearing injustice cannot be carried only by those being oppressed. We must be a voice of reason and awakening to our own communities of privilege.
The prophet Jeremiah guides us when the leaders of our land abandon the promises of our nation:
Go to the royal palace and deliver this Message. Say, ‘Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates.
This is God’s Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the foreigners, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!
On the same week in May that some Christian leaders called for a day of prayer for President Trump, the 24th person was killed in the concentration camps and prisons where we house people who fled their homeland and sought refuge here in the United States. Thousands of children remain separated after being unnecessarily abducted from their families and have suffered death, trauma, and sexual assault at the hands of our government.
At the National Cathedral, just a few miles from today’s White House march, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. conceived an earlier poor people’s march to “bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses” to the nation’s capital, urging us to “remain awake” at the sight of economic injustice and to develop “a world perspective … where we all learn to live together as brothers, tied together in a single garment of destiny.”
Today, we see the continued abuse of poor people all over the world. We see the torment of migrants at our borders. And we see the bloodshed in our churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues at the hand of fear-drenched hate, anti-semitism, and xenophobia.
Last week, our partners at the Southern Poverty Law Center testified to Congress about acts of terrorism committed by white nationalists, extremists that our own FBI will not acknowledge as terrorists:
These killings are not happening in a vacuum. White supremacy and white nationalism are allowed to grow unchecked. They remain underestimated by law enforcement and unnamed in the media because we as a society are not able to properly identify them or are just too scared to say them aloud.
The falsehood of “white genocide” is pervasive. The people behind these murders share a common fear of the end of a white majority in U.S. And this dangerous myth is seeping into the mainstream, just as easily heard on the evening cable news as it is seen on flyers defacing college campuses.”
We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen and to move forward a vision of the nation we love as a beloved community made up of people who have all been born in different places but share a common bond in calling this land their home. In calling themselves American.