Local faith leaders march in solidarity with immigrant communities

Faith members gather at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville to read and present their declaration of solidarity. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

An "interfaith procession" was held Thursday in solidarity with area immigrant communities.

Community members gathered at First Congregational United Church of Christ on Oak Street in downtown Asheville just before noon.

Members of more than 130 faith communities across 19 North Carolina counties, signed a "Declaration of Solidarity" since March 4, to show support for immigrants and their families.

The procession began with a unifying song for sanctuary as participants filed out of the church onto Oak Street, making their way toward the first stop at Beth Ha-Tephila Synagogue for prayer.

The procession then proceeded to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, where the declaration was presented to representatives of area immigrant communities.

Speakers from Nuestro Centro accepted the declaration. Miran Porrus and Geny Hernandez Lopez took turns reading the response in Spanish and then translating to English. They said, "As a member of the Asheville community, I receive this declaration in support of my community with an open heart. I give thanks for these efforts and would like to emphasize that this declaration is part of the reality currently lived in this country and that this country has lived in for centuries before."

The speakers emphasized the need for this support across minority communities.

Several houses of faith and worship are pledging to offer sanctuary to immigrants and their families, with many more considering doing the same or supporting congregations that do.

Land of the Sky United Church of Christ is pledging short-term sanctuary for those who need it.

"That means that we would house an immigrant individual or family for two to three nights," the Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss said. "We don’t have a lot of shower and bathing facilities, and so we're unable to offer long-term sanctuary, but we would do it for two or three nights and really just provide a round the clock companionship, safety. We would do everything in our power to make sure that that family knows the extravagant radical welcome of our god."

Hendler-Voss said the shift in policy from the previous presidential administration has been dramatic. "We’ve recently in these times seen a crackdown that is impacting not only the communities that were previously impacted under the Obama administration, but really we're seeing people who are coming forward to report domestic violence being deported, we're seeing dreamers be deported, we’re seeing people who are what they’re calling quote unquote collateral damage be deported, where they are not violent criminals by any stretch of the imagination and yet they’re being taken from their homes.

"We as faith leaders feel that it’s so important across religious traditions, across faith traditions, to come together and say that we will not stand for this," Hendler-Voss continued. "That we believe in loving our neighbors as ourselves and we will protect our neighbors."

As of today, the declaration had collected more than 1,775 signatures and is open again to collect more signatures. It can be read in full and signed by visiting the website here.

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