Thursday, September 21, 2023

Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana: A Journey of Solidarity: Ruth and Naomi’s Story, Part II

Today’s post is by Deaconess Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana. Marquez-Caramanzana is an Area Liaison for Asia and the Pacific with Global Ministries. It is the second of two parts. This post was originally developed for the World Methodist Council Consultation on Migration.

In my previous post, I introduced the story of Ruth and Naomi’s relationship and named the resonances that it has for our ministry with migrants in our time and locations. I raised the question of Ruth and solidarity.

Ruth’s story is instructive of the who, the why, and the how of solidarity. Despite her own vulnerability, Ruth embarked on the unknown because of her deep love for Naomi. She did not look on her personal struggle as a vulnerable woman solely, but she grabbed the opportunity to show to Naomi, who was then desperate and surrendered to her lot, to see that it is better if they are together in the journey. It was radical love professed in this mother-in-law – daughter-in-law relationship.

Ruth’s story is instructive of our missiological task of ministering to those who need God the most, those whose only hope is God.

When we talk about mission these days, and when we talk about the plight of migrant men and women and gender minorities, are we not supposed to be talking of how deep our solidarity is with them?

With Ruth and Naomi embracing a journey together, I see two individual women charting their own future and deciding for themselves the outcome of that future rather than just waiting for others to dictate their course. It was a journey of mutual support that challenged how people and society looked at and treated them. It was a risky journey but a worthy one to undertake.

I don’t have any intention to romanticize the story of Ruth – it was truly, definitely a difficult journey.

But her story speaks to every one of us – as individuals resisting cultural impositions and anything that denies us of our full humanity. It speaks to struggling migrants and immigrants actively looking for ways out of poverty, dehumanization, and insecurity. It speaks to us as churches seeking to be in solidarity with those who are vulnerable.

And I would like us to focus on the last: Ruth’s story speaking to us as churches seeking to be in solidarity with those who are vulnerable.

Part of Global Ministries Theology of Mission Statement says:

The Church experiences and engages in God’s mission as it pours itself out for others, ready to cross every boundary to call for true human dignity among all peoples, especially among those regarded as the least of God’s children, all the while making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

In solidarity we have to empty ourselves. It is in emptying ourselves that we are able to identify with our struggling and distressed brothers and sisters. We cannot claim to journey in solidarity with them when we ourselves are limited by our own impositions and claims to correct knowledge and expertise.

Our readiness to cross boundaries defines the way in which we incarnate our faith. Emptying ourselves is a pre-requisite in crossing boundaries. More than geographical boundaries, we focus ourselves on crossing the boundaries of race, class, gender, age, and others. We cross our own personal boundaries of individualism, egoism, privilege and comfort. We break down the walls that keep us apart from the suffering of others. We break down the walls that render us numb to the pulsating pain brought about by oppression, dehumanization, and marginalization.

To be in solidarity is to recognize that people are decisive in charting their course. To be in solidarity with them is to provide them support as they affirm their agencies and build their capacities. We share our resources with them – yes. But it is not the determining factor in regaining their humanity. Our roles should be to render our presence in their journey in such a way that obstructions are eliminated and they are able to regain their power. To be in solidarity is to embody the hope that they themselves are capable of rising up.

We will need to take into full account that our understanding of the plight of migrants and immigrants should be our primordial concern. Their context defines the response that we as churches or mission agencies can learn from. Their journey, their struggles, their hopes and aspirations should inform our perspectives, practice, and theology of mission.

Ruth may have undergone a lot of self-emptying so that the essence of solidarity was incarnated in her accompaniment of Naomi. Solidarity was not just a word or concept for Ruth. It was in flesh, lived out in her decision to be with Naomi until death. Her solidarity resulted in hope. A hope that assured Naomi that her battles were not just hers. A hope that enabled their community to see Ruth and Naomi on a different light.

As churches we participate in the emancipatory struggles so that we, too, become ambassadors of hope. For those who are not able to see light clearly. For those struggling to get up on their feet. Ruth became a beacon of hope for Naomi. And so must we. For the sake of the least, the last and the lost.

Our theme for the consultation is “On the move.” As the spirit, as Ruah, is with us, we must we be on our feet, on the move. We can’t just tarry in the garden. We need to move. We need to do something. Our faith compels us to serve. Our God is calling us to move. But let me also affirm that as we move, God is also in the movement or movements of people, in movements where we participate meaningfully so that life abundant becomes a lived reality for the world’s most vulnerable people. Amen.

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