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Interfaith service calls for prayer and action on southern border camps

Mike Desmond

The continuing national turmoil about immigration and the U.S. southern border drew a large crowd Wednesday night to St. Joseph University Church for an interfaith service.

Credit Mke Desmond / WBFO News

The prayer service was sponsored by an array of religious congregations and social services agencies. It included a mix of music and prayer from the Abrahamic faiths.

Many said they are uncomfortable about what is being done in their name. They attacked President Trump's comments about immigrants and the immigration system.

Robert Mietlicki, chairperson of St. Joseph's Refugee Immigration Committee, led off the event. Mietlicki said there is a wider goal.

"Hoping to engage the wider faith community in Western New York, into praying about the issues facing immigrants and refugees showing up at our southern border and also to inspire people here to act on their behalf," he said. "Not just to pray and meditate about it, but actually take some concrete steps to help people that are coming here to save their lives."

Mietlicki suggested things like contacting the public officials.

Sana Iqbal is a second-generation member of her family born in the United States after her grandparents immigrated from Pakistan. Iqbal said Trump should not be attacking immigrants and immigration.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Especially in a position of leadership, but this is a country that was formed based on immigrants, so why at this point, now a few hundred years later, is it that immigrants are being banned, are being kept from making their country flourish, even more since even the base of our country was immigrants?," she asked.

Iqbal wears a hijab and said she does receive a certain amount of grief over her religious status, although she said more people seem tolerant of the scarf.

Church Pastor Fr. Jack Ledwon said members of the congregation work actively to put together packages of personal necessities for migrants who often have nothing. He said many forget how recently their families may have come to the United States.

"Not only the Catholic church, but this entire country," Ledwon said. "I recently saw a post that said you're either a Native American, a slave, an immigrant or a refugee. So all of us can trace our roots back to one of those and, aside from Native Americans who also came to this place probably millennia ago, all of us really are visitors. All of us are guests."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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