By Jennifer Piper, Interfaith Organizing Director, AFSC Colorado
AFSC's organizing work in the faith community is really starting to take root in Fort Collins.
In August of 2009, I was invited to speak in Fort Collins through a New Sanctuary Movement contact who would also be speaking. After we spoke to the group of 80 clergy and laypeople, the Interfaith Immigrant Rights Coalition of Northern Colorado (IIRCNC) was formed.
I was invited back to speak to the group several times and presented AFSC Colorado and the Colorado Council of Churches Christian curriculum “Who is My Neighbor?” Don Preslan and Paige Noon attended the IIRCNC meetings representing Plymouth Congregational UCC. They decided to adopt the curriculum to their faith community and offer a five-week series to 60 people.
Plymouth Congregational asked Coloradoans for Immigrant Rights member Sister Alicia Ramirez to speak to them about the immigrant detention center in Aurora, CO and Piper to lead a workshop to decide what actions Plymouth would take as a congregation. One of the actions the group decided to take was to invite more of the faith community into working on immigration.
Don and Paige planned an “Interfaith Service for Immigration Rights and Reform” for May 2, 2010, inviting Sister Alicia and me back to speak as well as clergy from Unitarian, Jewish, Episcopal, and Zen Buddhist traditions; 175 people attended the service. Sister Alicia presented her story from AFSC’s “Border’s Lifted, Voices Raised,” our recently released digital storytelling project. Many people in attendance cried as she spoke about how her family’s story, and the gifts her family brought to the US, is the story of immigrants today.
I was asked to close the service with a call to action. While immigration may be a complex issue, how our faith calls us to treat and respond to our immigrant neighbors is not complex. I encouraged and challenged people to continue learning about this complex issue and to take action while they learned.
Don and Paige had set up action tables around the lobby and participants were invited to sign up at the tables. On that day--
- 110 letters were written to Congress and the President using some AFSC talking points which Project Voice had developed;
- 30 maps to the AFSC’s detention center vigil in Aurora were handed out;
- 4 Spanish speakers were recruited to work as translators for the Fuerza Latina hotline;
- 16 people signed up to become community volunteers teaching English to immigrants in our community;
- 9 people to signed up to become part of a "letter to the editor" writing campaign based on CFIR’s letter to the editor ladder; and
- 25 signed up to receive the Interfaith Immigrant Rights Coalition newsletter.