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Prayers and hymns in Garden City to underscore divide over immigration

Parishioners join in song during the Immigration Through

Parishioners join in song during the Immigration Through the Lens of Faith candlelight service at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City on Wednesday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Close to 200 people prayed, recited Scripture and sang hymns of compassion and mercy toward immigrants at a candlelight service Wednesday night in Garden City hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

“It is a response to what’s been happening at the border,” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, who presided over the bi-lingual event at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. In a four-minute video he posted to invite people to the service, Provenzano called it “an opportunity for us to talk about immigration through the lens of faith.”

He said that some people at the service have relatives who have been detained at the border.

The service began at 7:30 p.m. with hymns and readings from the Bible texts of Jeremiah, Romans and Mark, accompanied by a prayer that said “we refuse to be comforted until the children who have been ripped out of the arms of their parents are once again united and secure.”

The prayer was a direct response to the policy started by President Donald Trump — and ended by him with an executive order June 20 — of separating children from their parents as families try to illegally enter the southern border of the United States.

Provenzano said reading the prayer also served to address the cruelty of Trump’s separation policy and the misuse of Biblical passages to justify it. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited a passage in Romans that requires Christians to submit to authority. Wednesday night, some of those gathered at the service read other passages from Romans that call for compassion and love.

“Our nation has been witnessing a sinful and destructive travesty in the name of immigration security, children being ripped away from their parents, families being separated at the border,” Provenzano said in his welcome video. “Our nation is in trouble . . . The people of God need to gather together for prayer to share ideas, to seek reconciliation, to call on God’s people to act as the church.”

The event took place one week after Trump amended the “zero tolerance” policy that required border patrol agents to separate children from their parents, casting thousands of children into holding facilities and social services agencies while sparking a torrent of criticism, including from prominent members of the Republican Party that he heads.

At least eight children who were separated from their families when their parents were arrested at the United States’ border with Mexico have been placed at Mercy First, a youth services agency in Syosset.

The service also came on the same day that a Republican-sponsored immigration bill failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives. That “compromise” bill was supposed to address the crisis of families being separated at the border.

After the prayer service, attorneys from Safe Passage provided an overview of immigration issues, including the problem of increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border.

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