The Prayer Rising event held at Chi’chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat) on 4 November 2023 gathered over 150 people from many walks of life. We, as part of CPT – Turtle Island Solidarity Network joined together in unity to send prayers to protect this sacred land.
One of the ways we prayed was through a prayer walk to the road to the current mine. In a ceremony of repentance and cleansing, we crossed the road with ashes. We then returned to write prayers on ribbons of multiple shades of the blues of water and sky and to soak them with holy water gathered from the sacred spring on Mount Graham, a deeply connected sacred site.
The next morning, a smaller group walked up the hill to near the entrance of the mine that threatens to destroy this sacred land and tied ribbons to the bushes nearby.
Enduring and newly cultivated feelings of hope, mutual respect for the land and water, and camaraderie with new friends were interrupted that night after sunset. Looking up toward the mine, I saw looming above us at the mine site a configuration of the lights of the mine that I had never seen before: an unmistakable cross glared down at us.
Although I grew up with the cross as a symbol of love, for God, for humanity, and for creation, it has also been used as a symbol of hatred and violence. This cross did not convey a loving blessing. This cross was a direct response to Indigenous people and settlers who had gathered to raise prayers and to the ribboned prayers that still hung fluttering around at the entrance of the mine.
The huge fiery-looking cross on that hill made me call to mind the many people who have suffered and been terrorized by that same symbol. There is nothing new in disrespect, nor in turning a sacred symbol into a calling card of evil. Dehumanization of “the other,” has had disastrous results throughout history. It continues to the present, again taking the shape of a cross and the plan to desecrate this land, and contaminate the air and water. It is a blasphemy against all that is good.
Seeing that cross recalls me to the work that I still have to do. Many people within the Christian community are ignorant of Christ’s message of loving our neighbour and of the impact of such hateful displays of disrespect.
And still, being a participant of Prayer Rising and an accompanying presence with Apache Stronghold are powerful reminders that bigotry, hatred, and violence do not have the last word. As sure as the sun breaks through in the morning after a night of falling rain, there is hope, there is goodness, and together we will find a way. Hand in hand together with Apache Stronghold, we see and work for beauty in the world.
You can support Oak Flat by signing a petition to the Government of the United States calling on them to respect the sacred!