Our Privileged Passage
A Message from Ashleigh Zimmerman
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Sixty-eight million people are displaced. They move as they may and they sleep where they can. Like Mary and Joseph, forced by decrees of kings and executive orders, they move from their homes. They are carried forth to seed communities not of kingdoms, but of kinship. What about the rest of us? How do people like me, with privileged passage, become good followers of our displaced leaders? How do we stand in true solidarity with the dispossessed, those dignified people who walk with straight backs across borders and deserts?
My journey is guided by my love for a Palestinian refugee, but my husband’s name is not Jesus, it is Mohammed. While we wait for news of another sibling’s visa, we think, “Where will we go next?” Mohammed asks, “When will I see all my family members together?” There is always a new pain. The sting of a grandparent who passes without our saying goodbye. Bittersweet news of births and marriages that my mother-in-law witnesses only through photos. Empires are built on these policies of family separation, those that deny her the simple pleasure of saying hello to the newly born, or goodbye to the dead.
What I learn from the displaced, be they Jesus or Mohammed, is this: None of us can survive as we were. It is only through extradition from old hopes and old escapes that we can find the space and sanctuary to create new conceptions of the collective.
Because even as I feel my family’s pain, the empire will rip us apart. I can see my mother often, but my husband’s mother may never see her sons again. The world of kingdoms will always privilege my dreams and deny my Palestinian family’s, no matter how I tie my wellness to their own. Recognizing this — that domination obstructs our capacity for reciprocal relationships with one another — propels us to new methods, new openness, and costly commitments that risk losing everything to build anew.
By moving alongside Mohammed’s refugee story, I learn to depart from a false sense of security granted to me by my own nationality. Our outrage in this current political moment commands us to struggle with the displaced, who are our leaders in both confronting empire and our privileged place within it. It is through our solidarity with the millions of people displaced from their homes, so many of whom are Palestinian, that our collective dignity will be defined.
This Christmas season, join me in turning to the Mary and Joseph in your lives with a renewed commitment to move in solidarity with them. We will not hide from our responsibility. We will welcome our new family members. We will transform our churches and cities from places that deny your worth to places that are led by your experience. We will join you in passage from a state of security to a community of resistance.
In giving a gift this Christmas, you will recommit to building a new world, to being transformed, and to honoring refugees like my husband, Mohammed, as they insist upon the right to exist, the right to move, and the right to return. Will you make this commitment?
Join me on this journey by donating here.
Mohammed, Ashleigh, and Family