Two dozen members of a progressive Baptist church in North Carolina followed the road from immigration court in Charlotte to a notorious ICE prison in Georgia during a two-day pilgrimage protesting the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy toward unauthorized border crossings and separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ben Boswell, senior pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, called the policy announced in April “immoral and inhumane” at a prayer service launching the Aug. 3-4 Awakening to Immigrant Injustice Pilgrimage before driving the route that many immigrants detained in North Carolina make when they are transported from Charlotte Immigration Court to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.
In Lumpkin faith leaders formed a “prayer chain” outside the facility recently in the news for the apparent suicide of a prisoner suffering from bipolar disorder, the eighth individual to die in ICE custody in fiscal year 2018.
“We are here to call on people of faith and good conscience around the country to join us in demanding that our immigration policies keep families together,” said Boswell, pastor of the Alliance of Baptists-affiliated congregation since 2015.
“We call upon President Trump and his advisers to immediately end their zero-tolerance policy and to reunite families that they have torn apart,” Boswell said. “We demand that Congress start doing their job by providing checks and balances against President Trump and Jeff Sessions and their immoral and inhumane policies.
“Finally we demand the Trump administration stop traumatizing children and families and asylum seekers and create a humane and moral immigration system that respects the dignity and worth of all human beings crossing our borders.”
The pilgrimage was part of an Awakening Series, year-long journeys of understanding around complex issues involving social justice started in 2016.
“We at Myers Park Baptist Church don’t take on easy issues,” church member Chaz Seale said. “Certainly, immigration is one of those difficult issues.”
“There are good points of view on either side of the issue,” he explained. “We recognize that everyone on one side isn’t an evil villain and everybody on the other side isn’t always right. However, what we are facing here is something that is absolutely morally wrong.”
Chrissy Williamson, associate minister and mother to a 5 year old, described the trek as “a physical journey with a sacred purpose: to see for ourselves the realities of our broken immigration system, to hear the stories of those impacted by our laws and to bear witness to the truth, calling our nation to a higher standard, calling our nation to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”
“I call on all mothers and all parents and all people of faith and good conscience to speak up and that we continue to hold accountable Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and all other elected officials who work on our behalf,” she said. “And I call on each of us to demand that we can and we must do better.”
First-hand stories and reflections will be shared in future articles here at baptistnews.com.