UCC urges moment of prayer for young refugees and their advocates on Sunday, July 20
As part of an Interfaith Weekend of Compassion and Prayer for Unaccompanied Children, the United Church of Christ is urging members and congregations to take a moment during church services this Sunday, July 20, to pray for and stand in silent witness with thousands of young refugees fleeing violence and conflict in Central America and the groups throughout the country working to help them. While the situation remains fluid, with needs changing rapidly on a day-to-day basis, UCC groups across the U.S. continue to seek ways to offer their time, resources and support to help these children in need.
“As more and more women and children from Central America continue to flee their homelands and seek refuge in the United States, the United Church of Christ and other faith communities throughout the country have acted with compassion and respect, supporting these refugees during this time of desperation,” said the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries. “We encourage our members and congregations to take a few minutes to hold these individuals and their advocates in their hearts and prayers as we work to address this on-going crisis and embrace these people who so clearly need our help.”
The national setting of the UCC has issued a special appeal to raise funds to assist these refugees, a response to UCC congregations seeking ways to help. Funds are being directed to the Refugee Enabling Fund to provide food, water, safe places, a listening pastoral ear, religious services, and legal assistance. Donations can be made securely online, at local UCC congregations, or directly to UCC Wider Church Ministries.
“We have been inundated with requests from UCC congregations from Connecticut to Nebraska wanting to know how they can help,” said the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, the UCC’s Global Sharing of Resources team leader. “This appeal is just one way our members and churches can make an impact in the lives of these refugees, no matter where they are located or how their communities are being impacted by this crisis.”
The Southwest Conference of the UCC is also accepting contributions to support refugees, and is requesting Visa or Mastercard gift cards in $25 increments that can be used anywhere for whatever type of supplies are needed at the time. The Conference plans to use funds to purchase supplies to donate to its local congregations actively involved in relief efforts, such as Yuma UCC in Yuma, Ariz., or for Catholic Charities, one of the few organizations that have been granted direct access to the children.
“We are building a network of support here that is going to be very helpful,” said the Rev. John Dorhauer, conference minister of the Southwest Conference. “We will use Catholic Charities, but we also have churches like Yuma UCC, Silver City UCC, and at least a dozen others that are responding in real time to immediate needs that pop up almost at a moment’s notice.”
United Church of the Valley UCC in Murrieta, Calif., was in the center of some of the most hostile responses to this situation captured by the media, such as when angry protestors turned away three buses from Texas filled with refugee children to be processed in Murrieta on July 1. But not all of Murrieta is hostile, said the Rev. Gilford Bisjak, pastor of United Church of the Valley. While the media made a “big play” of the city’s angry protestors, members of Bisjak’s congregation brought a peaceful presence, and were busy collecting food, clothing and toiletries. Church members took part in an interfaith prayer vigil on July 9, spoke out in support of these children at town hall meetings, and continue to advocate for them through their congressional representatives.
“The furor has calmed down because they are not bussing anymore children into our lovely city with open arms and warm hearts,” said Bisjak, jokingly. “Right now we are just kind of standing by, trying to keep this alive, staying aware of what is going on with the larger immigration issue, and doing education and advocacy.”
While the immigration issue has divided both Congress and the nation, Bisjak said people on both sides of the argument need to give if a solution is to be reached. At one protest he attended, he was struck by the behavior of people both supporting and opposing these children and their arrival in the U.S. While something needs to be done, Bisjak says, nothing is going to get done without a goal to reach common ground.
“There was a lot of shouting of slogans at one another but no conversation,” he said. “Part of the larger problem is we are not going to listen to someone who is not going to agree with us. I don’t think these problems will really be solved until we learn as a nation to listen to each other, sit down and talk, and find reasonable solutions together.”
The Interfaith Weekend of Compassion and Prayer for Unaccompanied Migrant Children will take place July 18-20. Organized by the United Methodist California-Pacific Conference, the event calls for people of faith to engage in prayer and action to protect young refuges, inject compassion into the national conversation, and to send a message to these children that they are not forgotten.
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