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HUMAN RIGHTS

Lights for Liberty

Ely event draws attention to plight of migrants

Keith Vandervort
Posted 7/16/19

ELY - Nearly 100 people gathered at Ely’s Whiteside Park last Friday to participate in “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.”

Lights for Liberty candlelight vigils …

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Lights for Liberty

Ely event draws attention to plight of migrants

Posted

ELY - Nearly 100 people gathered at Ely’s Whiteside Park last Friday to participate in “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.”

Lights for Liberty candlelight vigils were held in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, at least 20 countries besides the U.S., and online. Ely was among a dozen Minnesota locations to host such an event.

Heidi Mann spearheaded the local gathering. “My heart has been very heavy for the migrants, especially the children, detained in horrible conditions since crossing our southern border,” she said. “At first the closest Lights for Liberty location was Minneapolis, but I thought, ‘Why not Ely? We can do it here.’” Mann reached out to several local faith leaders and word spread.

“Several people said they were surprised at how many people came to the vigil,” said Carol Orban of Ely. “I said that I wasn’t at all surprised. Ely folks have heart.” Connie O’Kane, of Ely, said she was pleased with the local response. “It is gratifying to see caring put into action,” she said.

Mary Groeninger, priest of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Eric Thiele, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Corey Larsen, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, and community members Emily Brown, John Larson and Jean Gendreau helped organize and lead the event.

The 45-minute vigil was peaceful in tone. In addition to prayers and song, leaders shared scripture passages from four world religions about caring for foreigners, refugees and guests. They read poems about immigration, including Emma Lazarus’s poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, and several participants offered brief personal stories.

Jean Gendreau spoke about a recent visit to McAllen, Texas, where she saw two asylum-seeking boys at the airport being transported to other detention facilities. “They sat next to me. A local man pointed them out. He said every morning the government quietly flies children out of the McAllen airport. The boys I saw were about 10 years old, and each one had a guard. It’s not that they were crying or upset. They were just blank. Their empty eyes and numb faces made it horribly real.”

John Larson, who spends part of the year in Benson, Ariz., reflected on how immigration policy and practice have changed over his 25 years living and working near the border. He is a long-time volunteer with Humane Borders, No More Deaths, and the Blessed Nuno Society on the Arizona-Mexico border.

At 9 p.m. the group formed a circle for five minutes of silence and candlelight, even as other groups in the Central Time Zone were doing the same. (Each of the nearly 800 vigils around the world planned a time of silence and light for 9 p.m. local time.)

A few participants brought signs. A unique one, taped to a double stroller, read, “Someone my age is in a cage. I am 3 years old.”

As participants departed, they were offered information sheets and postcards for contacting government officials. Some expressed interest in ongoing action. Watch for announcements on Facebook and in local newspapers.

More information about the overarching Lights for Liberty effort can be found at https://www.lightsforliberty.org/.

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