Faith leaders organize rally for undocumented children

Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014, 9:16 pm
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By Sandra Sepaniak,
DAVENPORT -- Area religious leaders have been urging compassion for children being held at the United States-Mexico border, and that plea will result in a rally in downtown Davenport this weekend.

"Love Without Borders," a rally focused on showing compassion for undocumented children, will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Harrison and 2nd streets, across the the Figge Art Museum.

At the rally site is a statue memorializing the Irish immigrants who came to the United States during the Irish Potato Famine.

The rally is planned by a committee spanning Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The committee is led by the Rev. Rich Hendricks, of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad-Cities, who called for a meeting of area religious leaders about the undocumented children.

According to Nora Dvorak, immigration issues coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport, Bishop Martin Amos will lead Sunday's invocation.

Rev. Hendricks said stories of the children will be told at the rally. Many of the children at the border are from countries with frequent homicides and gang violence, but their troubles don't end upon entering the United States.

"We're aware that the conditions at the border change daily," the Rev. Clark Olson-Smith said, adding that the rally is "about helping those who are most vulnerable."

Public opinion about where to place undocumented Central American children has been mixed after Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba announced his Caring Cities initiative. Some believe they should be sent back to their countries immediately, while others think Quad-Cities residents should help the children.

The consensus among Quad-Cities faith leaders has consistently been to offer help.

"Children are a wonderful cause to unite around," Rev. Hendricks said. "They're our future, and each and every one of them is special and important, no matter where they come from and what their background is."

Rev. Olson-Smith said many of those wanting the children sent back immediately professed to be people of faith.

"I and other faith leaders thought it was important to have a voice of faith," he said. "Unfortunately, some of the most poisonous words came from people of faith. We want people to recognize that these children are refugees in need of help."

"It's a great sadness that this is such a divisive issue, said Rabbi Henry Karp, of Temple Emanuel in Davenport. "There was one Davenport alderman who said he would block the buses."

Rabbi Karp has written letters to local newspapers to raise awareness of the historical precedent. He focused on "kindertransport," a rescue mission for Jewish children before World War II where only Great Britain accepted the young refugees.

"What I see and what I hear are the same calls that were issued against accepting Jewish refugees during the Nazi period," Rabbi Karp said, "the calls that closed our borders to people fleeing for their lives and many of them losing their lives."

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