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Learning to talk about immigration in the faith community

How can faith-based communities have difficult conversations about immigration?

Parish and community group members can explore this question Saturday, May 5, during a training event sponsored by Long Island Jobs with Justice, a coalition that aims to protect the rights of workers.”

It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church in Riverhead.

Recently, Long Island Jobs with Justice established a rapid response network of locals who confirm the reported presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and monitor their treatment of immigrants. These volunteers also accompany immigrants to court appearances, where ICE arrests have been said to take place.

Most participants are from churches, said Richard Koubek, community outreach coordinator for Long Island Jobs with Justice.

“This discussion guide is for our activists to go back into their own congregations and broaden their base by getting people to be more open to the plight of immigrants,” Mr. Koubek said.

The training session is based on a 41-page guide developed several years ago by Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life after a study was conducted on how congregations discuss immigration.

One finding was that people do not want to be preached to about politics from the pulpit, and would rather discuss immigration in humanitarian and faith-based terms. The guide offers about a dozen exercises that look at immigration through family histories, personal experience, values and faith, Mr. Koubek said.

“The exercises are really designed to open people’s minds and hearts to listen to each other and not necessarily engage in a fight about what’s the best way to deal with [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] or [Temporary Protected Status] or comprehensive reform,” he said. “But it opens people to then being able to address the controversial public policy issues.”

One of the exercises asks participants to tell their own stories, reflecting on their family’s origins to find similarities in the immigrant experience.

“Persecution, looking for a better life,” Mr. Koubek said. “You see the commonality of the immigrant experience. It’s a lovely thing to do. It really opens people up.”

Register here: https://bit.ly/2rbxv6K

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