Westminster is a proud partner and supporter of many local and national immigrant and refugee rights groups fighting for equity, reform, and humane treatment of all people. We have a long history advocating for the rights of immigrants, refugees, and migrants in our community, as well as participating in national justice movements in solidarity with impacted communities. Through our advocacy, education, worship, prayer, and direct service, we hope to set positive examples for how communities of faith can affirm and welcome all, regardless of background, nationality, or status within U.S. borders.
Westminster is an anchor organization within the East Central Ohio Sanctuary Network (ECOSN). This group exists to prepare people to walk in solidarity with immigrants by creating a network of faith communities, individuals, and agencies for education, action, and service. The ECOSN hosts workshops to educate the community about the realities of current immigration policies and the impact on individuals and families caught in dysfunctional systems. It also researches immigration-related policies and encourages faith communities to organize for political change, and assists in recruiting volunteers for organizations and agencies working with directly impacted communities.
Our members volunteer their time with Immigrant Worker Project (IWP) based in Canton. We assist with mentoring high school students from immigrant families in their College Prep/Mentoring Program. After recent immigration raids in Northeast Ohio, we also supported IWP's clients as they navigate legal proceedings and assisted with providing funds and gift cards for groceries.
We also support Open Arms Hispanic Ministry, which aims to meet the physical and spiritual needs of immigrants in Wayne County. Open Arms provides transportation and translation services for work, doctor’s appointment, court hearings, dentist appointments, and more. They also assist individuals and families to locate housing, and advocate with local employers to develop better workplace environments for immigrants.
In addition, we've utilized the resources from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Presbyterians for Just Immigration (a network of Presbyterians interested in various immigration issues and how these issues impact their communities, churches, and presbyteries) to continue educating ourselves on how we can use faith-based witness for change. We happily host and learn from Global Peaceworkers in the Presbyterian Peacemaking program about how members of our denomination are working for justice in different parts of the world, which often intersects with immigration, migration, and refugee rights.
Westminster's History of Immigration Advocacy
Many in our congregation supported the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s, when faith communities, universities, and other organizations rallied to advocate on behalf of thousands of refugees fleeing persecution in Central America. BorderLinks is one organization in Tucson, AZ that grew out of the Sanctuary Movement, and in 2008, 2010, and 2012, Westminster sent members of our community on a delegation to learn, experience, and connect with the struggles happening at the southern border. Although Westminster no longer sends regular delegations to Borderlinks, as a congregation we are still very active and committed to immigration and refugee rights, especially in Ohio.
Other activities we have organized or participated in:
- Assisting Hartville Migrant Ministry with its summer day program for the children of migrant workers. We sponsored several of their events each summer, and travelled to Hartville to assist with the daily program, including serving as chaperones for trips to the Akron Zoo ("Zoo Buddies").
- Assisting the employees of Señor Pancho’s restaurant in Orrville, OH, after a fire left the families temporarily without sufficient income.
- Church dinners, church services, and programs providing information and reflections about our BorderLinks trip experiences and about issues surrounding immigration reform.
- Semi-annual lunch box collections during Advent and Lent to assist the children in Nogales, Mexico, at the BorderLinks-sponsored Casa de Esperanza y Paz.
- The formation of a local ecumenical partnership, with a focus on
upporting local immigrant needs and on advocating for immigration reform. We met with national and state representatives, co-sponsored postcard campaigns, and co-organized immigration awareness events in the community.
- Programs at our church, in conjunction with the College of Wooster and local residents, such as the community dialogues on justice for poultry workers and a dinner with John Fife, co-founder of the Sanctuary Movement.
- Community movie screenings and discussions about films such as "800 Mile Wall."
If you would like to get involved in some way, or want to hear more about our immigration justice work, contact us!