Along the southern border outside of Sunland Park, New Mexico, sits Mount Christo Rey, a desert mountain with significant spiritual importance to the locals. It lies just to the east of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, two cities infamous for their differentiating reputations. Standing atop the 4,675-foot summit is a limestone statue of Jesus Christ, reaching 29 feet in the air. It has served as a place of pilgrimage for Christians on both sides of the border since its construction in the 1930s, with both Spanish and English-speaking believers coming together in community to worship God.
It has also served as a light among the otherwise-complicated border crisis.
“The face must be peaceful,” the creator Urbici Soler said while he was sculpting the statue. “It must look down on El Paso with a peaceful expression. It must radiate peace in a world of war and hate.”
But the recent immigration debate in the United States threatens to endanger aspects of Mount Christo Rey, which many hold dear, with some advocating for a wall that stretches across the southern border. The wall would make it virtually impossible for Mexican Christians to continue traveling to the monument, destroying the international atmosphere that makes the place so special.
I don’t bring up this story to protest against the wall, but to point to the Christian community that has developed among the visitors of Mount Christo Rey. They don’t view immigration and border security as us versus them, but rather as brothers in Christ: “There is a sense of unity that I hope will always exist between both communities. I wish we could see each other like brothers, the way God teaches us,” Ruben Aguilar, a resident of El Paso, told USA Today.
To them, immigration is an issue they can all be united in. This stands in sharp contrast to the mainstream discussion where Americans almost exclusively fall into two sharply-divided factions. One side, mainly formed by progressives, see immigrants as victims fleeing persecution in their home countries. The other, a more conservative side, often sees immigrants as criminals looking to exploit the system.
Neither side really seems eager to compromise with the other, nor do they seem to want to actually solve the issue. Sadly, there are Christians on both sides that stop at nothing to demonize the other, trying to discredit them for their own political party’s gain. This type of rhetoric is not acceptable amongst anyone, let alone fellow Christians.
We need to look at the immigration debate much differently. As Christians, we must throw out the divisive rhetoric of Washington and start to think more like the pilgrims at Mount Christo Rey. No matter what side of the border we reside on, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. The same needs to go for fellow Americans. Whether we are supportive of or against the current administration’s border policy, we need to remember that we are all a community of believers. The famous verse in Mark 12 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which could not fit this scenario any better.
Does this mean we all have to agree on border policy? Not at all. But it does mean we have to realize we are all striving for the same goal: to bring glory to God.