Franciscan

Muslims voice fears at Town Hall

BY BR. AL MASCIA, OFM

When over 1,000 people responded to the RSVP saying they would attend Wednesday (Feb. 1) night’s Emergency Town Hall meeting in Dearborn, Mich., someone had to call the mayor. The original venue for the gathering was the Arab American National Museum on Michigan Avenue, but that could only handle about one-quarter of the expected attendees. So Dearborn Mayor John "Jack" O’Reilly made some calls and was able to secure the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center with a capacity of over 1,200. A half-hour into the evening’s program, there was standing room only!

This impromptu meeting arose out of the felt need of the local Muslim community to process the recent presidential Executive Orders placing bans on travel. Serious restrictions had already impacted the family lives of many local Muslims and there was no effort made on the part of those at the meeting to disguise their fear and apprehension that worse things were on the horizon. Remember, over 30 percent of Dearborn residents are Arab-American or of Arab descent!

My reasons for attending this meeting were many; certainly to stand in solidarity with so many of my neighbors, but also because I needed some help in better understanding exactly what these executive orders mean so that I can speak more credibly with those I encounter day-to-day.

Fortunately, the gathering was sponsored by such eminent organizations as the ACLU, the National Network of Arab American Communities and the United Way. The panelists were all lawyers and did an excellent job helping us lay people better understand the hidden meanings behind all of the legalese. After each panelist had made their opening remarks the floor was then opened up for questions and answers. Right away people queued up behind the microphones set up around the auditorium, and it was then that the tenor of the evening shifted. One by one people came up and—only after just a few days of the restrictions being in place—shared heartbreaking stories of elderly parents being detained indefinitely at airports, adult children being unable to return home after business trips abroad and newlyweds beginning their lives together under the shadow of fear.

Honestly, I left the meeting somewhat stunned, my head spinning and full of questions! It was all so big, so intense and so undeniably human that I couldn’t help but feel small and humbled by it all. So, could the worst really be yet to come? Is it true that thousands of my neighbors are feeling so angry, scared and afraid? And what can I do to avoid being just a helpless bystander? Well, there was no questioning that I was experiencing an important part of history this past Wednesday night at the Emergency Town Hall Meeting, I just hope and pray the future takes a significantly different turn!

Read about the Franciscan Model of Civil Discourse here.

Fr. Jeff Scheeler reviews the Catholic Principles on Migration here.

Read the statement by the U.S. Franciscans on the president's recent immigration ban here.

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