As I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner with my family last week, I was reminded, as I am every year, of the contributions of immigrants to our communities. I always give thanks for the hands that picked the food that I eat and recognize that the overwhelming majority of the hands that harvest our food are those of immigrants. Farmworkers leave their families and homes to come to this country and work difficult, often unsafe jobs in order to keep our food cheap. This year I was particularly reminded of the recent Oxfam report about poultry workers who hang, cut, and debone the birds that we consume, repeating the same motions tens of thousands of times each shift, with few moments to rest, stretch, or take a bathroom break. On a holiday when we take time off to be with our families, I always stop and take a moment to give thanks to God for the workers who make daily sacrifices to put food on our tables.
However, this year the conversation at my family’s dinner table turned to a different immigration topic—that of Syrian refugees. My family asked my opinion and I shared with them my recent video post on the Council’s blog. The irony that we were celebrating a holiday that revolves around a group of people who left their home due to religious persecution to start a new life in another country, while at the same time more than half of our nation’s governors oppose welcoming Syrian refugees into our country, was not lost on me. We are a nation with a proud history of welcoming immigrants and refugees, and have all benefited from the tremendous gifts they offer our community. Now more than ever it is important we pause, turn our fears into courage, and give thanks for one another.
To show our welcome to Syrian refugees and all our newest neighbors, the Council of Churches is partnering with Church World Service to host an interfaith prayer vigil and multicultural potluck on Monday, December 7 at 6 p.m. at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 403 East Main Street in Durham. All are invited to come together to pray for peace throughout the world and then to break bread with our neighbors from other countries. Please bring a dish from your own culture or ancestry to share and a canned food donation for the food pantry of Urban Ministries. A similar potluck and community gathering is being organized in Charlotte by OurBRIDGE on Sunday, December 6 at 3 p.m. at 1350 Central Avenue.