Via Revolution UCC - El Paso Interfaith Service for Dignity & Solidarity

UCC represented at El Paso city-wide interfaith prayer service for Witness of Dignity and Solidarity

Calls for peace mark interfaith gathering

by Sara Sanchez , El Paso Times

(Photo: MARK LAMBIE / EL PASO TIMES)

(Photo: MARK LAMBIE / EL PASO TIMES)

Messages of peace can take on many forms — songs, prayers, calls to action — and many of them were on display on Thursday evening in Downtown El Paso.

Members from different religious groups around the Borderland came together for Witness to Dignity & Solidarity: An Interfaith Community Gathering, at St. Patrick Cathedral. The church was almost completely packed, with many migrants, religious leaders and students among those gathered.

The event marks another show of solidarity from El Paso towards immigrants and DREAMers. There were five testimonies from migrants, each followed by a meditation on peace from different religious leaders from El Paso.

The testimonies included stories of the sacrifice and heartbreak that some migrants endure in being separated from their families, as well as the challenges they face in pursuing their education.

Thursday's event was peppered with Spanish songs and Latin chants, echoing through St. Patrick's pillars and high ceilings. Diocese of El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz gave an opening prayer, as well as a reflection where he addressed migrants and reassured them that they are not alone.

"You are not alone," Seitz said in Spanish. "Do not be afraid."

The event was held in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services and the Hope Border Institute.

"It’s really important for El Paso to demonstrate leadership, to show that communities can be different, that we don’t need to be divided, that we don’t need to be hateful of people who are different from us," said Theodora Simon, Associate Director for Advocacy and Leadership Formation at the HOPE Border Institute.

Simon added that she hoped Thursday's gathering would be seen as a show of solidarity with immigrants.

Sabri Agachan, of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, gave the final meditation on peace. He migrated to the United States from Turkey, and stressed unity.

"We've got to come together to solve certain problems," Agachan said.

Towards the end of the gathering, everyone was invited to sign a large banner as a show of solidarity towards migrants.

"These types of families, immigrants, we know so many of those people," said Isela Alvarez, who came to the gathering from St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces. "These are mi gente. I saw it on the news and thought, 'oh, I gotta be there.'"

Rev. Deborah Clugy-Soto  lights a candle with refugee Maria Alvarado of Mexicanos Auxilary after their testimony Thursday at St. Patrick Cathedral. The Hope Border Institute hosted an interfaith community  gathering Thursday to join in solidarity with the immigrants of the El Paso area. (Photo: MARK LAMBIE /EL PASO TIMES)

Rev. Deborah Clugy-Soto  lights a candle with refugee Maria Alvarado of Mexicanos Auxilary after their testimony Thursday at St. Patrick Cathedral. The Hope Border Institute hosted an interfaith community  gathering Thursday to join in solidarity with the immigrants of the El Paso area. (Photo: MARK LAMBIE /EL PASO TIMES)

There were also plenty of community leaders at Thursday's gathering, including El Paso County Judge Veronica

Escobar, El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles and El Paso Independent School District board member Susie Byrd.

"One of the things that make us strong as a community, that makes us interesting and vibrant, is that we are a strong community of immigrants. Everybody’s welcome," Byrd said. "We’re here today to remind the community that this is something that’s special, and remind the rest of the world that that’s what we value about the place we choose to call home.”

EXCERPT OF STATEMENT SIGNED

“Communities must resist the tendency to allow fear to justify the creation of walls and divisions, xenophobia, the degrading of women, the marginalization of those struggling with poverty, the scapegoating of minorities, the demeaning of those with disabilities, the mistreatment of the LGBTQ community, and intolerance towards our Muslim brothers and sisters; and that

Standing in solidarity with all those who pursue justice and work for reconciliation, we recommit ourselves to work through encounter and dialogue to advance racial equality, economic inclusion, the protection of the migrant, the rights and dignity of women, fairness in our criminal justice system, the protection of our sacred earth, and compassion for the most vulnerable among us.”