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Ash Wednesday rally shows support for immigrants

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A Cincinnati Police officer looks on as a multi-faith group rallied in front of the John Weld Peck federal building on Ash Wednesday to bring awareness to the plight of immigrants coming to the United States to escape violence in their native lands. (Courtesy Photo)
A Cincinnati Police officer looks on as a multi-faith group rallied in front of the John Weld Peck federal building on Ash Wednesday to bring awareness to the plight of immigrants coming to the United States to escape violence in their native lands. (Courtesy Photo)

A group of 40 people gathered in front of the John Weld Peck Federal Building in downtown Cincinnati on Ash Wednesday and marched in bitter cold weather to show their support to immigrants in the United States and to call for repentance as individuals and as a country for our treatment of immigrants.

Distribution of ashes on site served as a way of asking forgiveness for the societal attitude of unwelcome to immigrants who come asking for safety from violence, death threats from drug lords, and extreme political unrest. Contrary to what some believe, rally organizers said, many immigrants come here to stay alive, not to escape poverty. One local Guatemalan said, “We were born in poverty and we can usually find a way to survive in spite of it. We cannot survive the violence.”

Catholic Social Teaching makes it clear, rally organizers said, that the human rights dignity of undocumented migrants should be respected, whether they are documented or undocumented.

This rally was a concrete way of emphasizing that. In brief remarks to those attending the rally, Congregation of Divine Providence Sister Alice Gerdeman, provincial of and former coordinator of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, emphasized the church’s ongoing commitment to keeping families together is a vital way of respecting human rights.

Sister Alice pointed out that the looming 2016 presidential election and the political processes taking place around it offer opportunity for the church to look afresh and more in-depth at the issues causing immigrant families to live in fear of being torn apart. “They have every right to fear and flee the incredible violence in their home countries, but they should feel welcomed – not fearful – here.”

Comboni Father Louis Gasparini, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, attended the rally and was impressed.

“The bitter cold didn’t deter this group,” he said, “and I went away feeling that their participation was a message to the world: ‘Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would a native, and love them as you love yourselves (Leviticus 19:33-34).’”

The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, LULAC, Episcopal Church of Our Savior, and Nuns on the Bus Cincinnati organized the rally.

The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center is sponsoring a related event, “Rally for Hope: Stop separating families,” March 12 from 1-3 p.m. at Holy Family Church (3006, West Eighth Street) in Price Hill. Learn more about that event HERE.

Story by Mary Bertolini

This story first appeared in the March 2016 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph. 

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