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Rhode Island interfaith leaders decry separating families at the border



The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, in partnership with the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island and representatives from the interfaith community held a press conference in response to the Trump Administration‘s family separation and child detention policy being carried out at the United States/Mexico border. The executive order signed by the President, is not seen as being enough, as the policy raises many questions about when and how immigrant families will be reunited, housed and treated in the coming days, weeks and months.

“We are gathering here in the face of injustice, not only as people of faith, but as people holding true to our long and deep history of caring for our most vulnerable,” said Adam Greenman, President and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island acting as emcee.

“The shame that we bring upon ourselves is beyond tolerable,” said Reverend Charles Ortman, Minister of Immigration and Sanctuary at the Rhode Island State Council of Churches. “That’s why we are all here today.”

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“Human decency and the teachings of all the world’s religions, call us to respond  to the human desperation at our doorstep,” said Judy Ortman, a member of the Sanctuary Steering Committee, on behalf of the Reverend Liz Lerner Maclay of the First Unitarian Church of Providence.

“Our message at the border, standing together both Republican and Democrat,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. “was calling on this administration to go even further [than the executive order] and do what is right in this situation, what any person of sane mind would understand as the right and just thing to do, which is to immediately reunify these families.”

“If you want to quote the scriptures, Mr Attorney General,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser, from Temple Sinai in Cranston and representative of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island. “Please then, we are begging you, live by them!”

“Our nation’s history bears witness to a legacy of lost love,” said Reverend Betsy Aldrich Garland of the United Church of Christ. “We separated the children of native peoples, from their families. We separated the children of enslaved peoples, from their families. We separated the children of Japanese people, from their families. Many of these families were never made whole again…”

“Our history teaches us that we need to follow, the teachings of Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, and the people like them” said Mufti Ikram ul Huq, resident Imam of Masjid Al-Islam in North Smithfield and Mufti Darul-Ifta of Rhode Island. “We need to follow their foottseps. We need to follow their example in lifting up humanity.”

“We live in a moment when so much of our national conversation, the decisions we make as a people, are being driven by fear,” said Bishop Nicholas Knisely of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. “They are being driven by fear of people who are different than we are.”

“Sometimes people are blaming the mothers and fathers. [This is] another example, isn’t it, of blaming the victim” said Father Eugene McKenna from the Priests for Justice at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. “Why are they doing it? Because they know their children are going to be involved in gangs, and involved in all kinds of violence – They’ll hardly have a chance to make it… because of the injustice that’s all around us.”

“These recent policies have only reinforced my deeply held values about human dignity and the sacredness of each person,” said Mitzi Berkelhammer, board chair of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. “Our power is through our many voices, joining together as one, in calling out for protection of those most vulnerable.”

Adam Greenman wraps up:

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