Great Plains clergy raise voices in immigration rallies


The Rev. Chris Jorgensen and her daughter take part in a rally in support of refugees in Omaha. Photo courtesy Chris Jorgensen

For the Rev. Chris Jorgensen, it was almost a reflex action for her to make her voice known at a weekend rally in Omaha, denouncing President Donald Trump’s new immigration policy.

“Christianity needs to come out of this moment in time with its integrity intact, frankly,” said Jorgensen, associate pastor of the Urban Abbey coffee shop and ministry in Omaha. She also serves as the campus minister for students at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Creighton University.

Wearing her clerical collar and carrying a sign that said “Who would Jesus deport?,” Jorgensen was among approximately 1,800 people who attended a Jan. 29 rally in Omaha’s Turner Park. Her 12-year-old daughter carried a sign that read “Love your Muslim neighbor” on one side and “Immigrants are welcome” on the other, alongside a dozen Bible verses about how Christians should treat strangers and those from other lands.

“It’s fundamental to our Christian witness that we articulate the hospitality of Christianity, and the requirements of Scripture that say we have to welcome the stranger and welcome the immigrant,” Jorgensen said.

Omaha’s “Stop the Ban Rally” was in response to Trump’s executive order restricting travelers from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Jorgensen said she believes the president’s orders fly in the face of biblical philosophy.

“You can’t say ‘Love your neighbors’ and follow it by cutting out a section of people and saying, ‘Oh, except them,’” she said.

Several rallies took place in the Great Plains over the weekend.

The Rev. Stephen Griffith, a retired United Methodist pastor, attended and spoke at the Rally & Candlelight Vigil in Solidarity on Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Nebraska Capitol in Lincoln.

“It’s important for me to be able to stand up as a minister and say, ‘Folks, we all share a commitment to humanity,’” Griffith said. “I hear some of our local and national leaders talking about how important it is to be Christian, and yet they take actions I think are against the teaching of Christ. Specifically, they act in ways that are harmful and frightening to immigrants and refugees."

About 300 people attended the rally at the capitol.

Griffith has been working with a number of nondenominational groups seeking social justice for immigrants and refugees.

“I think it’s important that we all stand together, regardless of our faith, and be one people together, united as a nation,” he said.

The Rev. Kalaba Chali, mercy and justice coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, was also in attendance at the Omaha rally. Chali said the gathering was peaceful.

“This was more of showing support for our Biblical call to welcome the refugees and foreigners rather than protesting the president,” he said.

Chali said that showing up at rallies is one of several ways that the clergy and laity in the Great Plains can make their voices known for social issues.

“There’s a better way to increase security, and there’s a better way to vet people,” he said. “As Christians, we cannot forget that in everything we do, we must be passionate.”

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