RUFUS BERRY SPEAKS TO ANSWER THE QUESTION: “Who is our neighbour and how do we help them”?

RISE_Large_Moment (2)On Sunday, January 27th, 2019, at the Episcopal Church of Christ the King, Reverend Mary Eliot Introduced the RISE programs, whilst reflecting upon the insights and awareness that the ‘Intercultural Sundays’ have brought to the community with regards to immigration and refugee issues. The Intercultural Sundays are a series of Sundays allotted for RISE Mission to support refugees and immigrants and raising awareness about Refugees and Immigrants in our communities. The Sermons which were also delivered by RISE volunteers who have firsthand experienced these challenges reflected on the oneness of our humanity. These Sundays were also dedicated to themes of ‘welcoming and loving our neighbors’.

“Today, we wanted to ask the questions how do we help our neighbors? Who is our neighbor and how do we help them? Rev Mary Said.

Rev. Mary introduced the speakers (RISE Members) Rufus and Rev Dianne. (Rufus was the first to speak), followed by Dianne.

Rufus offered Prayers, and then started his speech by pricking the minds and conscience of the audience to act or take action to support immigrants, refugees and asylees, saying:

“Have anyone of you come across an issue? There is something going on in the society, the troubles in the world, that you felt so deeply about? That you are so passionate about that you wanted to do something about it? How to lend a voice or the way to go? Well, you are not alone”.

He then shared the inspiration behind the formation of RISE and how all are called to action for those who are in need. RISE_Large_Moment(4)

“RISE was founded by individuals like yourself – individuals who felt deeply about issues in the world and decided to do something about it.” Rufus Said.

 

“Many recognize this country was built by immigrants and its foundation was built by immigrants”. He said

Rufus then went ahead to reference ‘Martin Niemöller a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and perhaps best remembered for his postwar words’ – 

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.

Rufus then reflected on his personal journeys and struggles with immigration issues and how he finally was able to surmount these challenges, but he finds himself fortunate. However, he was mindful of the opportunities he had and thought beyond what he has achieved to show solidarity and empathy for his school mates still caught in the throes of immigration challenges.  Even though Rufus may relish the thought of his being fortunate to attain the right status of a citizen of the US, he does not lose sight of many of his friends who face the predicaments of living without their right status, many of whom were his ‘brilliant colleagues’ living under the shadows. Commiserating with his friends and colleagues for their being unable to secure a pathway to citizenship, because of the many difficulties and living in the ‘current climate’, Rufus longed for a remedy.  In a subtle tone, Rufus bemoaned the loss of potentials of some of his friends he had made whilst he was in high school, but who were here undocumented and so cannot reach their potentials.

 

RISE_Large_Moment(7)

“I made friends who were some of the smartest people I know”

but yet they were unable to attend college after graduating from high school and unable thus to pursue their ‘American Dream’ or make use of the opportunity that America can offer. Rufus calls all to action.

“You see most people who are undocumented in this country will never speak up. They will never ask for help even when they are in trouble simply because of the climate that we are in these days”

He reflected on the common myth and perceptions and prejudices that weigh heavily against immigrants, refugees and asylees.

“You see, it is not uncommon for us to hear that immigrants are lazy, that they are dangerous, that they come to this country to take jobs from hardworking Americans.”

Rufus turns the mic over to the congregation asking the very poignant question:

“If that was said about you, will you speak up”?

He delved on the now all- familiar negative propaganda, but he feels there is hope in a nation where Christianity and the teachings of Christ prevail. 

As ‘scripture teachers us that we must never let fear drive our lives and our hopes”.

He admonishes that “as a nation, we must live by our Christian principles and live with Christ’s lessons on how we should treat our neighbors”.

Refus reflected on the parable of the Good Samaritan, as was told by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke. It is about a traveler who is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. Despite the fact that at the time, the Samaritans and Jews despised each other, yet the Samaritan helps the injured man and showed mercy.

Rufus then says that “Christ was teaching us to not only help those who  we know or love but we must help everyone”

20190203_122934He made a clarion call for the congregation to be proactive, and to take action. He then encouraged all and sundry to courageously  stand for others in  need and those who face challenging circumstances as immigrants and refugees.

“we are not always to lend a hand, we are not always to help when it suits us best. Often times when it is uncomfortable, when it is not the popular thing to do is when we must speak up even more”.

He was right, as immigration and refugee issues are so thorny these days, and the rhetoric so appalling that many find it unrealistic to stand for those who face oppression due to their status, and so turn a blind eye, or turn the other way or walk away. Refugees and Immigrants have been so blemished and besmeared that it takes guts and activism to defend them in public. Yet, there are still many who, even the face of the mammoth challenges and discomforts they endure for standing for refugees and immigrants remain resolute and unfazed in defense of the oppressed.  Rufus again summoned all to action and appealed for people to do something and inspires the congregation by hinting at America’s role in International Humanitarian efforts and global charity, its place in the world in assuaging the countries hit by environmental disaster or human disasters such as wars around the world.

“We are a nation that always speaks and always fight on behalf of the voiceless. When ever tragedy strikes. We always lend a helping hand we always there to relieve the pain and suffering”.

Rufus then turns to another source of inspirational quote, this time,  a lyric he heard from Martthew West Song ‘Do Something’ to convey his deeply felt message of how people must help their neighbors and take action on behalf of others.

“Do Something”
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
I thought, “How’d we ever get so far down?”
And “How’s it ever gonna turn around?”
So, I turned my eyes to Heaven,
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”

Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty,
Children sold into slavery.
The thought disgusted me.
So, I shook my fist at Heaven,
I said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did.” Yeah. “I created you.”

Now listen.

If not us, then who?
If not me and you?
Right now.
Well, it’s time for us to do something.
If not now, then when?
Will we see an end
To all this pain?
It’s not enough to do nothing.
It’s time for us to do something.

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet.
But it’s easier to say than to be.
Live like angels of apathy
Who tell ourselves,
“It’s alright: somebody else will do something.”

Well, I don’t know about you,
But I’m sick and tired
Of life with no desire.
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire.
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something.”

If not us, then who?
If not me and you?
Right now.
It’s time for us to do something.
Yes, it is. Come on.
If not now, then when?
Will we see an end
To all this pain?
Well, it’s not enough to do nothing.
It’s time for us to do something.

We are the salt of the earth.
We are a city on a hill
Shine, shine, shine, shine.
We’re never gonna change the world
By standing still.
No, we won’t stand still.
No, we won’t stand still.
No, we won’t stand still. No!

If not us, then who?
If not me and you?
Right now.
It’s time for us to do something.
If not now, then when?
Will we see an end
To all this pain?
It’s not enough to do nothing.
It’s time for us to do something.
It’s time for us to do something.
It’s time for us to do something.

Rufus continued to express the many ways people can help uplift the lives of others.

‘For some of us, doing something is through prayers, for others it is supporting a cause with financial donations.

He calls on all to be engaged in the democratic process and take action. Rufus identified the various efforts people can make and actions to take to engage in the democratic process that can also influence policies to support those who are downtrodden and ostracized because of their refugee and immigration status.  

He then concluded by announcing the Episcopal Advocacy Day which will be held on February 6th 2019, in Annapolis and encouraged all to participate. He invited all to learn more about RISE and welcome them to RISE office to stop by for further information about the new Ministry. He encouraged all to secure further information from RISE about how they can act for immigrants and refugees. Acknowledging the fact that we are all learning together in this frenzied period of instability and  unwelcoming climate for immigrants and refugees, Rufus then finalized his inspiring speech by urging each one of the congregation today to ‘do something’. 

by: Andrew Greene

 

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