A dozen citizens from Windsor and surrounding areas gathered quietly on Saturday, June 30 at Old South Church to hold a candlelight vigil for what they feel is unjust treatment of asylum-seeking families, recently separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” enforcement.
“Given the national, even global focus on the terrible pain of what our government is doing, separating families, we knew that not everyone is going to rallies — but sometimes we also need quiet time to reflect,” said Bridge Pastor Karen Lipinczyk on Saturday in the upstairs sanctuary in the church, which is celebrating its 250th year.
The church organized the vigil “in response to the national outcry over separation of migrant families at the US-Mexico border,” organizers said.
Lipinczyk added that church organizers thought they could set aside some time to reflect on how “gut-wrenching” the current climate at the U.S. border is.
They invited community members to gather for mediation, silent reflection, and to share — if they chose to — civilly-voiced expressions of lament, outrage, their thoughts on current events, or personal past experiences related to seeking asylum or needing civil rights protections in any form.
Lipinczyk called the event “an opportunity for citizens to gather and pause, seeking the spiritual center from which compassion and moral imagination arise.”
The vigil, which lasted about an hour in the cool church sanctuary as temperatures reached the mid-90s outside, included songs, readings, and open discussion. She and the dozen or so parishioners read aloud from a litany, written recently by the Rev. Tracy Howe Wispelway of the United Church of Christ, for families being separated at the border and those “entangled in the violence.”
“For the children suffering the trauma of separation, who will struggle with attachment and trauma for their whole lives because of inhuman detainment,” the litany read, in part. “For LGBTQ persons who are not being adequately recognized, cared for or protected.”
Several people stood up to share their thoughts, frustrations, and reasons for attending. Some cited Christianity as a reason to not separate families; others declared support and a willingness to physically put their bodies in harms way to protect asylum-seeking children and families, if it ever came to that.
One woman stood and said the current events make her think of her daughter with Down syndrome, and how she is bothered knowing that so many children are away from family.
Another woman said that if roles were reversed and she had to flee war and violence to protect her family, they would have swum the Rio Grande, “and if they sent us back, we’d swim again.”
Some addressed the serious problems in other countries, and voiced that those need to be addressed at their origins.
Windsor resident Michael Quinn said he remembers a time not too long ago, in the 1980s, when the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) oversaw immigration enforcement, and there rose a “small movement” to give refugees from Guatemala sanctuary nearby in Hanover. The family had children, and the community rallied to help them, taking great risks and “disrupting in the name of justice and love” to make a difference.
The movement eventually lead to a Quaker meeting and a sanctuary symposium, and an agreement to harbor the family.
“That’s what those people did. They took a stand,” he said.
The father in the family ended up becoming a doctor and owning a home, Quinn said.
More than two dozen immigration rallies took place elsewhere in New England over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
Residents frustrated by the Trump administration’s immigrations policies rallied at more than two dozen locations Saturday in northern New England, delivering a rebuke that included cheers, jeers and prayers.
The rally in Maine’s largest city grew so big that police had to shut down part of Congress Street in Portland, as about 2,000 demonstrators spilled from the steps of City Hall onto the road. Speakers included members of the city’s growing immigrant community, according to the AP.
Across the region, rallies were held in Brunswick, Bangor and Bar Harbor in Maine; Concord, Conway and Portsmouth in New Hampshire; and Montpelier, Burlington, Brattleboro and Rutland in Vermont, along with smaller community gatherings.
-- By TORY DENIS