Interfaith Prayer Service for Suffering of Immigrant Community; Change takes Faith and Action

Camden Community in Prayer

March 23, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010 marked more than the first day of Spring. The noon hour of this day also marked a time when faith leaders representing more than 13 countries and 6 faith institutions from the South Jersey area filled the air of St. Joseph's Pro-Cathedral with prayer, reflection, testimony and song. This Prayer Service lifted up prayers for families suffering the effects of policies that make navigating a path to citizenship confusing, dangerous, never ending and scary. (photos here)

Together, in prayer and song, people from America, Argentina, Haiti, Mexico, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Sierre Leone, Ireland, Germany, and more sang of the unity of humankind, made in the image and likeness of God - that we are one family under God.

Testimonies exposed that the broken immigration system results in broken families, broken laws, broken economy and broken human dignity. Petitions were made for family reunification, cultural understanding that fosters respect and harmony, as well as the strength, courage and wisdom for our congressional leaders to support reform that reunites families, and creates a clear and timely path to citizenship.

Testimonies shared insight into the too often untold stories that result in abuse, suffering and other assaults on human dignity - how families are stressed out and torn apart.  "Rosie's story" shared that she came to America in 1989, with her youngest, whom has cerebral palsy.  How strains on the family resulted in her spouse leaving her - leaving her to care and provide for the family alone.

Only after 10 years of struggling to provide, was a sibling, a naturalized citizen, able to help her children get their green cards by officially adopting them.  She had to legally give up her children in order for them to get the needed opportunities and medical care. 

Her oldest child served in the U.S. Military and almost made the ultimate sacrifice for America in Kuwait during the war.  Of her children, one is naturalized and the other is a legal resident.  Although both her parents are legal residents, current immigration laws did not allow them to help to help her get a Green Card.

Her sibling tried repeatedly to get Rosie on a path to citizenship and was able to submit an application for legal residency 8 years ago. After years of follow-up, recently she learned that it will take another 5 more years for Immigration to even start working on my case. She's now been in this country for 20 years.  Rosie and her family wonder if and when this fear, powerlessness and lack or rights end?"

There are 12 million of our brothers and sisters that are in situations similar to Rosie's. The present immigration system, with its enforcement-heavy focus, has failed to keep families together, has failed to foster a clear path to citizenship, has failed to process immigration applicants justly and equitably, has failed to live up to the American ideals of liberty, and justice for all.

The untold stories include families fleeing the famine, forced gang /militia enrolment and corrupt government practices - from politician to police - for America, a land of opportunity, a land flowing with milk and honey.  Victoria shared, "that some areas of Brazil, the only places where many of the poorer people can afford to live, make the worse streets of Camden seem like paradise."

Another young man, William shared that he has been unable to find legal work to provide for his siblings and parents, as he does not have legal documentation. Although he earned an academic scholarship to college, he was unable to accept it, as he does not have legal status - no working papers, no loans, no scholarships, no job.

The spiritual reflection of Luke 4:24-30 reminded us that we are a nation of immigrants and that we are to make certain no harm comes to the stranger among us. It was shared that Jesus taught how immigrants were also recipients of God's blessings; that all people belong to God; that we were to love the foreigner. Also shared was the need to act on our faith values, calling on our congressional representatives to change the laws to reflect a more just and humane approach to citizenship.

Those present at the service were on one accord and chose to act on their faith, for change takes faith and action! Post Cards urging repair of the broken immigration system were signed by all and mailed to Senators Lautenberg and Menendez, and Representatives Andrews and Adler.

This prayer service acknowledged and supported six CCOP souls who traveled from Camden, NJ to Washington D.C. to join 50 others who traveled across America as part of the PICO National Network's Pilgrimage for Reform: Change Takes Faith and Action bus tour. This bus tour started in San Diego and worked its way to Washington D.C. Together, they joined with over 200,000 souls in the March for America Campaign on the Mall, where President Obama, even in the midst of the historic push for Healthcare Reform, affirmed his pledge to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform through a televised message - "Yes We Can." Change Takes Faith and Action Now! ¡Sí Se Puede!"