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Devotees Feed 1,000 Migrants in Juarez Refugee Facility

By: for ISKCON News on Sept. 6, 2019
Activism

Refugees help Abhay Das (in blue shirt) prepare and serve prasadam

On Saturday August 24th, the sacred day of Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-Puja, a group of devotees from El Paso, Texas fed Jagannath prasadam to nearly one thousand migrants at a Central American refugee facility in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, right on the border.

The migrants, including families with young children, had fled gang violence, political instability, and economic hardship in Honduras, Guatemela, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

On their way, they had been smuggled by ‘coyotes,’ who pay a cut to drug cartels, and often take advantage of the women. Many refugees had thus been victim to sexual abuse, violence, human traffic, and extortion.

The refugee facility is high security

Now, they are requesting asylum from the United States. Previously, such refugees could stay in the U.S. while they awaited immigration proceedings. However under the Trump administration’s strict anti-immigration policies, they must now wait in Mexico, often in high security facilities – in this case, Casa del Migrante in Juarez. According to the Los Angeles Times, they could be waiting for months or even years.

Hearing about their plight, Abhay Das, one of the directors of non-profit Angels on Wheels, wanted to do something to help. An ISKCON project, Angels on Wheels distributes prasadam free of charge to the needy and disadvantaged in El Paso, periodically visiting different homeless shelters.  

The Casa Del Migrante refugee facility

Along with two other devotees – Ariana and Vidi – Abhay got approval to distribute prasadam at Casa del Migrante. He and his team cooked the prasadam onsite, with the refugees themselves assisting in cutting up vegetables and serving out.

“I’m not so keen on using equipment that non-vegetarian food has been prepared with, so normally, I cook in our own facility and drive it to the homeless shelter,” Abhay says. “But here, that wasn’t a possibility. So we used their pots and their facility. But I explained before we started cooking, that, ‘This is going to be prepared for God. We don’t taste it, we don’t look at it like we’re going to enjoy it. Please meditate that it is for God’s pleasure.’”

Abhay Das cooks a giant pot of kichari

The team used forty pounds of rice and ten pounds of mung dahl to cook kichari in a giant pot. They also prepared papadams, yoghurt, and tomato chutney.

Because it is funded by the Juarez Catholic Church, Casa del Migrante had a small altar for Our Lady of Guadalupe and a local saint.  

“I put little pictures of Srila Prabhupada, my spiritual master, Lord Jagannath and Pancha Tattva on it, and we made the offering right there,” Abhay says.

Migrants line up to receive prasadam

The prasadam was then served out to almost one thousand migrants, who expressed their gratitude and appreciation. “We especially got feedback that the children really liked the kichari,” says Abhay.

Despite the challenges involved, he is open to offering the service again should funding and logistics fall into place.

The refugees tuck into their prasad on Srila Prabhupada's appearance day

“These people have really been to hell and back,” he says. “And I knew it was most likely that they’d never had prasad before in their lives. So it was very gratifying to be able to give prasad to so many people who had never tasted it before, and on Prabhupada’s appearance day! Hopefully, it was pleasing to Srila Prabhupada.”

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To support further prasadam distribution efforts, please send a donation via PayPal to elpasoangelsonwheels@gmail.com.If desired, specify in the notes that it be earmarked for Central American Refugees housed in Juarez, Mexico. All donations are tax-deductible.

Tags:
[ central-america ] [ el ] [ ffl ] [ food-distribution ] [ food-for-life ] [ mexico ] [ migrant ] [ paso ] [ refugee ] [ texas ]
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