Friday, April 24, 2009

Crying out together

Interfaith prayer vigil will focus on justice for immigrants

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (April 24, 2009)--In what will be a nationwide effort on the part of people of faith, area Christians and Jews will gather to pray for justice for immigrants near and far. 

The vigil, sponsored by the local, advocacy-based Micah Center and Just Faith, a Catholic justice education and action movement, will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the nation’s largest immigration raid that occurred at a Kosher packaging plant in Postville, Iowa, in which nearly 400 immigrants--most of whom were from Guatemala and Mexico, but a few who were from Israel and other nations as well--were arrested. 

Faith communities across the country will remember the raid this May 12 with vigils similar to the one occurring in West Michigan.

The vigil will take place at 7 p.m. at Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Church (225 - 32nd Street SW, Wyoming, MI 49548). It will commence with an outdoor lighting of 389 candles--one for each person arrested in the Postville raid a year ago. Participants will then process into the church’s sanctuary to partake in a litany to be delivered in English, Spanish, and Hebrew. Afterwards, there will be a planned time of fellowship and advocacy in the church basement.

Ron Sabourin, of Kentwood, initiated the vigil. A member of the Catholic movement Just Faith, Sabourin exhibits a sincere passion for immigration issues. “There are a number of immigrants in my church,” he says, “and I’ve seen some of their suffering due to unjust laws and policies.” 

The vigil promises to attract a diverse crowd to St. Joseph’s, as a number of local justice organizations have joined hands to plan and promote the event. Sabourin is working diligently to plan and promote the event alongside members of the Micah Center, distributing fliers and making phone calls to members of the faith community. In addition, Sabourin recently attended a Jewish Seder and forged a relationship with members of Temple Emanuel, who will also contribute to the event.

Kate Kooyman, a leading advocate for immigration reform in the West Michigan community, observes, “People of faith need to come together to raise a collective voice for justice.” 

This just might be their chance.

Kooyman is an organizer for the CRC Office of Social Justice and leader of the Immigration Action Group at the Micah Center. She will collaborate with Laura Rampersad of Justice for Our Neighbors, a Methodist organization offering legal assistance to immigrants, to conduct an advocacy workshop at the conclusion of the vigil. 

Educational information and notices of upcoming social action around immigration issues will be available for distribution. Furthermore, Kooyman and Rampersad will guide attendees in writing letters to legislators to express their convictions about comprehensive immigration reform.

For information on the Postville Vigil, please visit or email 

Brian Paff, the Micah Center

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