RefugeeRally

Zita Angelo, of Marietta, holds up a sign while listening to a speaker at the 'We Stand for Welcome' event in Penn Square on Saturday, August 3, 2019. Angelo said her mother and grandmother were immigrants from Hungary in the late-1940s.

To rally against the Trump administration’s proposal to set the maximum number of refugees to zero for fiscal year 2020, about 150 people gathered in Penn Square on Saturday to show solidarity with Lancaster County’s refugees.

The “We Stand for Welcome” event, held outside Central Market, featured speeches from host Church World Service, Lancaster city Mayor Danene Sorace, faith leaders and some refugees who have resettled in Lancaster. The stories of the refugees — those who were separated from their families or are still separated — moved some of the members of the crowd to tears.

Emtiaz Zourob, of Lancaster city, fled Gaza five years ago and was forced to leave her family behind in asylum in Egypt for her safety. She said she had her life threatened by armed groups in the war zone for her views. It took four years and seven months for the family to be reunited in Lancaster this Mother’s Day.

“Now I can see my kids sleeping safely in their beds, while my husband and I watch the sunrise together again, and wait for the new member of my family to come and join us,” Zourob said during the event, announcing she is pregnant. “And in this case, he or she will not be far away from me. And I don’t have to wait four years and seven months to meet him or her. It will be just seven months or less.”

Syrian refugee Ahmed Zein, joined by his son and daughter and an interpreter, pledged to honor America’s culture in his “second country.” He is still separated from much of his family.

The crowd promised to hold U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker to his words, reported in LNP last week, to keep welcoming refugees to the U.S. Stephanie Gromek, the development and communications coordinator for CWS in Lancaster, also called on the congressman to support a bill that would set a mandatory minimum of 95,000 refugees each year.

Sorace noted the ways refugees and those seeking asylum contribute to the city’s economy as business owners and workers, praising the city for its “welcoming city” status.

The Rev. Robert Bronkema, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Strasburg, said while people debate the morality of topics like abortion and homosexuality that are not mentioned or barely mentioned in the Bible at all, the Bible repeats about 50 times messages to welcome all people. He said he doesn’t understand how a person who identifies as a Christian could disagree with welcoming refugees from biblical interpretation.

“You should check your ‘Christian card’ at the door,” Bronkema added.

Brenda Morales, an English as a Second Language teacher with many refugee students at Reynolds Middle School, said supporting refugees is humane.

“I live in a country that has more wealth and more things available,” Morales said. “And I need to share that with other people. I feel like it’s a moral obligation for all of us, and a Christian obligation for all of us.”