Dear friends and colleagues in faith,
Sacred scriptures are filled with stories of justice, liberation, and restoration. The exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. Pharaoh’s defeat. The return to Jerusalem from exile, and to home and family from profligate living and rejection. We share stories of leaders who were imprisoned for their faith and how, after the fervent prayers of their communities, the dungeons shook, their chains fell off, and they were free to go. Hallelujah!
Lucio Perez, a Guatemalan man of deep faith and conviction, has been separated from his wife and four children since October 2017, when he took sanctuary from U.S. immigration authorities in the First Congregational Church of Amherst, United Church of Christ. For almost 16 months he has been living like a prisoner of our government, and his family has suffered the grief of separation and the anguish of uncertainty. Lucio and his lawyers continue to fight his legal case--and sanctuary prevents his deportation--while he and his family continue to wait and pray and hope.
The time has come to pray for Lucio out of this painful situation and back into the arms of his family.
Toward that end, I am writing to ask for your support and participation, and for prayerful action by your communities of faith. With Lucio and Rev. Margaret Sawyer of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, we invite you to join us for a Day of Prayer with Lucio on Wednesday, February 27. Please click here and fill out the form to let us know that you will join us.
We invite faith leaders to gather with Lucio at 1 o’clock at First Church Amherst for a prayer service. We will hear his testimony and surround him with our love and prayers. We will also collectively sign a letter of support that will go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. (The letter will be forthcoming.)
Then, at 7 o’clock that evening, we hope your communities of faith will gather for candlelight vigils, prayers, or other public expressions of support for Lucio. This is a chance to raise our voices and prayers from across our region, calling for freedom for Lucio, for Irida, for immigrants throughout the country. (We will send suggestions on how to organize such a vigil, and each faith community is also encouraged to tailor these suggestions to its own needs.)
In these times when we are constantly struggling against injustice, it is sometimes hard to keep our eyes on the prize. But as the old Civil Rights anthem reminds us, it is that prayerful, soulful focus on faith, justice, love, liberation, and empowerment that helps us hold on to hope and continue along the journey together.
We look forward to seeing you on February 27. Please sign up here to let us know that you will join us. Also feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions.
Thank you so much for standing with Lucio and his family.
The Rev. Vicki Kemper, Pastor
First Congregational Church, UCC Amherst
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