‘Love Without Borders Rally’ scheduled Aug. 17 in downtown Davenport
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — A rally to focus attention on the plight of thousands of Central American children seeking refuge in the United States will be held Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. near the downtown bus depot. The interfaith effort, which Bishop Martin Amos supports, will include a time for prayer and the sharing of refugees’ stories from the pages of history and Scripture.
Rev. Rich Hendricks of Metro Community Church Quad Cities felt compelled to bring together area clergy to take action on an issue which has Congress at loggerheads and Americans divided about what to do with unaccompanied, undocumented children entering the U.S.
“This effort is from a faith-based perspective of getting people to stand up for their consciences and to stand up for what is right,” Rev. Hendricks said. “We have a lot of congregations that have expressed interest.”
The rally is planned for Second and Harrison Streets, near the bronze statue of a family depicted leaving Ireland en route for America during the Great Potato Famine of 1845-49. More than a million Irish people left their homeland and dispersed throughout the world rather than risk starvation. Now, more than 50,000 unaccompanied children have fled their Central American homelands since last fall because of extreme violence and poverty, according to news reports. Finding temporary housing while backed-up deportation judges decide the children’s fate has challenged the U.S. government, even as communities nationwide have offered a place to stay.
In an email letter to Davenport-area priests, diocesan volunteer Glenn Leach explained that Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, acting on his own behalf, had consulted Bishop Amos about reaching out to the unaccompanied children and families. Reaction to the mayor’s personal initiative has been mixed, with the City Council making clear that housing unaccompanied children is not the city’s responsibility.
Meanwhile, “we have reports of parishes in Iowa City sending large contributions to Catholic Charities USA (which) is operating in the border areas to provide humanitarian relief to the border crossers,” Leach said. “Similarly we have heard of parishioners making large personal donations to CCUSA. We have also heard from those opposed to any form of assistance or humanitarian care.”
Leach noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Iowa bishops “have published statements urging support of efforts to respect the life and dignity of those involved, and to push for solutions that reflect this Catholic concern. Bishop Amos continues to support the mayor’s initiative and positive actions such as this.”
Also shared with the priests was correspondence from Rev. Hendricks to area clergy concerning the rally: “The theme is love and it was suggested the program include examples of refugees from the Scriptures. There will be a time of prayer. The centerpiece of the rally will be to tell the children’s stories … One child story would be from the historical example of the Kindertransport … another from the historical example of the discrimination faced by the Irish; and the rest from the sad current history of these refugees.”
Rabbi Henry Karp of Temple Emanuel, also involved in the interfaith effort, sent an email to Quad-City clergy, inviting them to participate. He shared a letter he had submitted to the Quad-City Times about the unaccompanied children:
“Prior to the outbreak of World War II, when the specter of the Holocaust loomed ever greater in Europe, and the borders of the free world were generally closed to Jews seeking to flee the coming destruction, there was one small ray of hope. That ray radiated out of England. While England, like the United States, would not open its doors to the endangered Jews, it did decide to open its doors to Jewish children. Boatload after boatload of Jewish children landed on British shores. With many tears and great anguish, their parents sent them away, knowing that they might never see them again, so that these children might not die at the hands of the Nazis. This valiant effort to save the children was called “Kindertransport” and it came to an abrupt end when England entered the war.
“Holocaust analogies can easily be overplayed but sometimes they are truly appropriate. This is such an occasion. Today on our southern border there are amassed a large number of unaccompanied children from Central America who have been sent to our country by their parents, seeking asylum. Their parents, with broken hearts, sent them away because could not stand idly by while their children would have been beaten, raped, and killed. Like with the Kindertransport, these parents made an extremely hard choice in order to save their children’s lives.
Today, we in the Quad Cities are faced with a choice as well. Will we, like the people of England, open our doors and our hearts to these refugee children, or will we, like so many other nations back in the ‘30’s, choose to slam our doors shut on them and in so doing, condemn them to cruel suffering and death? In the years to come, which choice will we be better able to live with?”