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Centenary Methodist Church hosts celebration for immigrants

Mercer University School of Medicine Professor Dr. Richard Camino as he begins walk for Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants at Centenary Methodist Church March 20.
Mercer University School of Medicine Professor Dr. Richard Camino as he begins walk for Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants at Centenary Methodist Church March 20.

The noises of drums, clapping and songs filled the Macon streets as the eighth commencement of the Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants took place Sunday, March 20.

Centenary Methodist Church hosted the event, but other parts of Georgia participated in the pilgrimage.

The Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants, hosted by Centenary Methodist Church, is an act of solidarity for all people to gather in agreement that immigrants should receive proper justice and care in any community they decide to live in, specifically in the United States.

“I think that this is a really important event for people to come to especially if they are trying to figure out how to tell their immigrant brothers and sisters that they aren’t like everybody else . . . That God loves them just the way they are, and they are welcome in this country,” said Stacey Harwell-Dye, minister of community building at Centenary Methodist Church in Macon.

Dozens of people joined in the walk that spanned four miles in the Macon community.

As a sentiment for those who have faced adversity, participants stopped at the Rosa Park Square on Poplar Street and joined together for reflection.

Following reflection, participants continued the act of faith with prayer as passing cars honked to acknowledge the event.

“It’s important we are all here together celebrating what is and what should be justice for all,” said Mercer University School of Medicine professor Richard Camino.

Along the way, members of congregations stood waiting to give water to those who walked for the cause.

Harwell-Dye said she has heard stories of local immigrants who have faced adverse realities.

“We have a sister congregation, Nueva Vida (New Life), and about three or four years ago there were some raids on homes [of immigrants who attended the church],” Harwell-Dye said.

After the police raids, some of those immigrants were either deported for minor offenses, such as running a stop sign, or sent to detention centers that had unsanitary conditions, she said.

In these cases, minor offenses would act as the catalyst for immigrant deportation of that individual as well as his or her family.

“Sometimes they’re deported back to a country that they don’t remember. They came when they were small children. Some of them are deported back into a country that they don’t even speak the language well because they’ve been here so long,” Harwell-Dye said.

One of the last stops for the Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants in Macon was Central High School, where Mercer University freshman Ryan Partolan spoke about his parents’ decision to move to the United States from the Phillipines.

Partolan, who majors in engineering, said that through his parents’ and brother’s sacrifices he has been given the chance to gain opportunity in the United States.

After Partolan’s speech, participants returned to Centenary Methodist Church with a walk of silence and reflection for the event.

“My favorite part of the pilgrimage was the walk from Central High School back to the church . . . because it symbolized the thousands of footsteps and miles that people walk everyday in search of a better life,” Partolan said in an email.

Once they returned, participants ate and shared their personal stories among the group.

“I think that this is an issue that a lot of students could be really invested in and active in and I don’t see a whole lot of students who let’s say know someone who may [be] affected…,” Harwell-Dye said. “So I really just want to encourage college students to think about it, to think about what their hearts say about [the immigrant issues in the U.S. and] at the very least give them a smile, be sympathetic to the problems,” Harwell-Dye said.


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