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Prayers, protest, in Oregon as people seek access to detainees

A protest outside the detention centre in Oregon

A protest outside the detention centre in Oregon  

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Chants of waheguru blend with those of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’

Hundreds of people gathered for an interfaith prayer on Sunday outside the federal prison in Sheridan, where 52 Indians are among those detained for alleged illegal entry into the United States.

As President Donald Trump continues with what he calls a ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement of the country’s immigration laws, undocumented residents are facing a tough situation and protests are erupting across the country.

Chants of waheguru and the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ blended as Sikhs from adjoining towns joined members of several local parishes.

‘Love fulfills the law’

On a high ground between the barbed fence and a still lake, they invoked god to change the course of the Trump administration, in a combination of prayer and protest.

“In ancient Egypt when Pharaoh made it public policy to kill Hebrew children, child murder became the law of the land. But people of faith knew better. They knew...” the pastor said, pausing later in a call to worship.

“Only love fulfills the law,” the congregation responded. “When Jesus was crucified, he was executed as a criminal, as an ‘illegal’, as an enemy of the state,” the pastor said.

“You who are the home of the homeless, you who are the strength of the weak…we pray before you, please invoke compassion in the hearts of authorities…” Satpawan Kaur said in Sikh invocation. The Sikh community hosted a langar or community kitchen after the prayer. People from multiple ethnic groups appeared to thoroughly enjoy an Indian meal of roti, dal, vegetable and rice.

Bahadur Singh, a Sikh originally from Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, owns 30 department stores in Oregon and one of it is in an earshot from the prison.

Mr. Singh, also chairman of Ghadar Memorial Foundation, said no one, either from the local community or from the legal fraternity, has been allowed to meet the detainees. “Unless someone meets them and gets details about their background, one cannot explore the options,” Mr. Singh said.

“We could see some of the detainees inside the compound, who evidently appeared to be Sikhs, though they were not wearing the turban,” said Amrit Singh, who was among the protesters.

Plea for asylum

The detainees refused to meet an Indian consulate official who arrived from San Fransisco last week. Seeking help from Indian missions will undermine their plea if they seek asylum.

Attorney-General Jeff Sessions had quoted the Bible to defend the Trump administration’s harsh measures against undocumented immigrants. Methodist leader Erin Martin, who was among the protesters, said she felt a specific responsibility to counter it. “Because Jeff Sessions is a United Methodist, it was important for us to make a statement against his actions, which are contrary to Methodist teaching,” she said on Sunday.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 9:32:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/prayers-protest-in-oregon-as-people-seek-access-to-detainees/article24256003.ece

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