Shayna Watson thinks maybe she’s an unusual Christian.
Watson, a hospice chaplain who chairs the religious affairs committee of the Lancaster branch of the NAACP, said she tries to follow the teachings and emulate the behaviors of Jesus Christ, for whom her faith is named.
But many prominent people who say they are devoutly Christian do not follow the same path, she said.
“Nowhere does Christ say we should feed only certain people,” Watson told a crowd in Penn Square Monday evening. “Nowhere in the Gospels does Christ condone the creation of walls.”
Watson was among several speakers at a rally in support of immigrants and refugees — one of many similar rallies across the country on Monday.
The threat of a thunderstorm wasn’t enough to keep people away. The crowd in Penn Square swelled to more than 300 for the 90-minute event, with only a single female motorist, who drove by the square screaming “go home,” voicing dissent.
Christians, Watson said, are responsible for caring for people in need. Unfortunately, she said, “Christianity has been hijacked by people who say they want to protect and preserve our country, but only want to protect and preserve their own interests.”
True Christians are “reclaiming our faith” with “radical hospitality to strangers,” she said. And every church, she added, “should be a sanctuary church. Christianity offers welcome, not walls.”
‘Broken and unjust’
Event emcee Nelly Torres from #LancasterStandsUp, herself the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, said she cannot imagine her life if her father had been denied entry to the United States.
“How many bright people are out there, all over the world?” she asked. “We can share in their gifts, and that’s to be celebrated — not to be turned away.”
Carrie Carranza from Church World Service, which facilitates the settlement of refugees in Lancaster County, said the U.S. immigration system is “broken and unjust.”
“We cannot allow (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to terrorize our lives,” Carranza said. “We cannot allow our neighbors to walk in fear. ... In Lancaster, we love our neighbors.”
“What a community,” agreed Shakeel Amanullah, a member of the Interfaith Coalition and a board member at the Islamic Community Center of Lancaster.
“This is Lancaster,” he said. “This is who we are — a community that recognizes, respects and celebrates our differences.”
Immigrants and the descendants of immigrants “continue to build the greatest nation in the world, the United States of America,” Amanullah added. And Lancaster will continue to support them, he said, “because this is the right thing to do.”
Other speakers Monday included Claudia Paz, who came to the U.S. from Honduras as a child without proper documentation, which she gained during the Obama administration; Dilli Subedi, a Hempfield High School student who emigrated from Nepal; and Mustafa Nuur, a Somalian refugee who was named Church World Service’s volunteer of the year.