First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County

seek ... nurture ... serve

Social Justice Reflection by Pat Uribe-Lichty

August 8, 2014
I was able to attend the July 31st Interfaith "Pray for Relief" demonstration in Washington, D.C.  It was a very powerful experience to be with so many UU's from across the country sharing both our bright yellow shirts and a faith-based call for compassion and justice.  It was very good to share the day with people of many denominations who also hear the call of a loving God to protest the creation of a living hell for immigrant families and children.
On July 30th, UU's gathered for a simple meal and worship service.  By 8 AM the next morning all demonstrators gathered at the United Methodist headquarters for breakfast and instructions on the day's program.  At 10:30 we left for Lafayette Park across the street from the White House where the rally took place.  Around 12 the 112 people who were able to be arrested crossed the street to stand on the sidewalk in front of the White House, and almost immediately began to be arrested for "blocking traffic."  Police processing went very smoothly - people with glasses/hearing aids were asked not to participate in this part of the action to ensure rapid processing - and by 5:15 we met again for a meal and sharing of experiences.
Both the demonstrators and the Parks Police behaved respectfully and cooperated with each other.  But a strong message was sent.  One sign said it all:  "When I was hungry...thirsty...a stranger, you deported me."  We called for an end to deporting 1100 people a day which is separating families who, in many cases, have been here for ten or more years.  We called for a expansion of the Dreamer relief which provides a  very limited window for young adults brought here as children.  And we called for a humanitarian response to the children of Central America fleeing violence and currently on the border.
I think there were many positive outcomes.  One I didn't anticipate was the effect we had on the arresting police.  While I don't think any of them will quit their jobs and join the ministry, I do think that we brought the issue into a sharper focus for them, and changed some hearts.
I left Washington with a renewed commitment to an interfaith coalition here in Reading.  In Washington I saw that communities of faith can come together with a shared theology of justice and compassion.  I invite members of this congregation to join me in reaching out to other denominations around the issue of relief for immigrants.
Pat Uribe-Lichty
Outreach, Social Justice Advocacy