Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

July 28, 2019: Prayerful Disciples

From Sandra Rooney


In the US press, there has been a constant stream of reports from medical personnel, reporters, lawmakers, and immigration lawyers, about the deplorable conditions in the detention camps along the US/Mexico border, where adults and hundreds of children, including toddlers, are being held pending consideration of their asylum requests. Clint, an out-of-the-way border patrol station in the desert outside El Paso, has become the public face of the chaos on the country’s southern border and the epicentre of outrage over administration policies. 

Medical personnel report outbreaks of scabies, lice, shingles, and chickenpox spreading among the hundreds of children and adults being held in cramped cells. Immigration lawyers report seeing children, some of them as young as five months old, being held in filthy, overcrowded cells, and older children caring for toddlers. The public is outraged by reports of children in filthy clothes, often lacking diapers, with no access to such basics as toothbrushes, toothpaste, or soap.

While some officials have disputed the reports, a review of the operations shows that the agency’s own leadership have, in fact, been aware of the situation, and interviews with lawyers, lawmakers and aides who have visited the facility confirm the reports. Granted the conditions at Clint, and other similar facilities, represent a conundrum for local officials as well as for Congress, but the facts remain – including children going hungry and forced to sleep on the floor. An investigation conducted by the agency’s own Office of Professional Responsibility and the department’s inspector general confirm the facility is several times over capacity and has “horrendous conditions.”

From Australia there are reports of “despair soaring among asylum seekers” being held in the offshore detention centres on the islands of Manus and Nauru. The Australian government maintains keeping asylum seekers on the islands is crucial to regulating the flow of immigration. However, some men are being held in these centres for literally years. 

The New York Times recently worked with human rights groups and asylum seekers on Manus Island, a remote island in Papua New Guinea, to examine a rash of suicide attempts and acts of self-harm since Australia’s May 18 election, which returned a conservative government to power. There are some 800 refugees and asylum seekers being held on the two islands and the number of such incidents since the election may number as many 100. They include people cutting themselves, setting themselves on fire, swallowing razor blades and needles. At least one Iraqi asylum seeker tried to hang himself, but was cut down by a guard.  Such incidents are often kept hidden because people don’t want to shame their families.

The circumstances of these two situations differ. Those being held on Manus are largely men and young boys from Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan, while those being held on the southern border of the US are children and adults from Central America. However, international human rights groups are calling what is being reported in both places a violation of international law.  


Explore…Luke 11:1–13

  • What are the most powerful words or phrases for you in the Lord’s Prayer? 
  • In what ways do you find comfort? Hope? Challenge?
  • Moving from the personal to the larger community, where do you see the need for forgiveness?
  • What action does seeking forgiveness require?

Merciful creator, you have shown us what is good, but we are weak and cautious, and today’s world is full of complex and difficult situations. Forgive us when we fail you. When we feel powerless, give us strength to do the right thing. When we would look away, give us the courage to look life in the face and take action. Amen. 


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