Georgia’s major faith groups to walk six days in solidarity with immigrants

As a part of my DriveFast for Lent I will be participating in this 6-day, 50-mile pilgrimage.  Want to join me on any or all of these days?


First interfaith Pilgrimage for Immigrants, April 5–10, spans from Gainesville to Atlanta
ATLANTA – Hundreds of faithful from diverse world religions will unite in a prayerful walk April 5–10, trekking 50 miles through North Georgia and metro Atlanta to express solidarity with immigrants. The 2009 Holy Week Interfaith Pilgrimage for Immigrants calls for the end of law enforcement raids that separate families, the passage of humane immigration reform and the revision of trade policies that currently increase unauthorized immigration. 
Organizers hope to raise a dialogue about the overlooked spiritual dimension of these polarizing issues. “We believe that our current ways of thinking are not enough to lead us to sustainable solutions,” said P.J. Edwards, a parishioner at Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Smyrna and a lead organizer of the pilgrimage. “Our faith gives us a starting point to understand how we affect one another and how we are part of the same family.”

Coinciding with Christian Holy Week and Jewish Passover, the pilgrimage begins in Gainesville April 5, continuing to Lawrenceville April 6, Lilburn and Duluth April 7, Norcross and Doraville April 8, Smyrna and Marietta April 9 and Atlanta April 10.  The route passes through immigrant communities and symbolic places where organizers say immigrants suffer – like the forthcoming, privately-owned North Georgia Detention Center operated by Corrections Corporation of America, local jails and sheriff’s departments as well as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office.

Religious sponsors include: Alterna, Atlanta Mennonite Fellowship, Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment, the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Justice for Immigrants campaign, Cobb Immigrant Alliance, Nipponzan Myohoji (Atlanta), St. Michael’s Catholic Church (Gainesville), St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church (Smyrna), St. John Neumann Catholic Church (Lilburn), Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Cobb County. Additional affinity endorsers are: Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, Georgia Detention Watch and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the number of undocumented workers in Georgia rose 105 percent between 2000 and 2008, an increase not matched in any other state. Thousands have been held in detention centers for long periods in questionable conditions.  Just two weeks ago in southwest Georgia, Roberto Martinez Medina, a detainee, died of unclear causes while in ICE custody and held at CCA’s Stewart Detention Center.
“If we believe that we ought not to scoff at the law, then we ought to expand the borders of our hearts and take seriously Rabbi Hillel’s injunction: ‘What is hateful to you, do not do unto others,’” said Rabbi Scott Saulson, an Atlanta-based Jewish leader.

The pilgrimage is a rare chance for unity. Rich Pellegrino, executive director of Cobb Immigrant Alliance and a member of the Bahá’í  Faith community, said: “It is wonderful to see faith communities coming together to uphold the dignity of all people, especially our growing immigrant population who have helped build our country with their ‘blood, sweat and tears’, just like all immigrant groups before them.” 

Denise Laffan, a Buddhist nun of Nipponzan Myohoji and event co-organizer, urges Georgians to reject divisive arguments: “The participating communities of faith hope this pilgrimage reminds us that the hardest walls to destroy are the walls of fear built in our hearts,” Laffan said.  

For more information, contact P.J. Edwards at  
Sunday, April 5 – GAINESVILLE
10 a.m.           Mass at Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main Street, Gainesville
11:30 a.m.     Stations of the Cross at Georgia Mountains Center
1 p.m.              Pilgrimage begins
2 p.m.             Prayers at La Flor de Jalisco #2 store parking lot, 425 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
4 p.m.             Prayers at La Villita Flea Market, 1736 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
5:30 p.m.      Pilgrimage ends at Plaza del Toro, 3305 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
Monday, April 6 – LAWRENCEVILLE
9:30 a.m.       Assemble at Catedral de Fe, 675 Buford Drive, Lawrenceville
10 a.m.           Prayer service at Catedral de Fe
10:30 a.m.    Pilgrimage begins
11:15 a.m.     Prayers at Gwinnett Sheriff’s Department
3:30 p.m.      Pilgrimage ends at undetermined site on Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville
Tuesday, April 7 – LILBURN to DULUTH
9 a.m.              Pilgrimage begins at Our Lady of the Americas Mission, 4603 Lawrenceville Highway, Lilburn, GA
4 p.m.              Pilgrimage ends at Santa Fe Mall, 3750 Venture Boulevard, Duluth, GA
Wednesday, April 8 – NORCROSS to DORAVILLE to CHAMBLEE
9 a.m.              Pilgrimage begins at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church, 2140 Beaver Ruin Road, Norcross
2:30 p.m.       Pilgrimage ends at Plaza Fiesta, 4166 Buford Highway, Atlanta
Thursday, April 9 – SMYRNA to MARIETTA
9:30 a.m.       Prayer service and pilgrimage commencement at Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 4300 King Springs Road, Smyrna
2 p.m.              Foot washing at Marietta Square, 50 East Park Square, Marietta
3 p.m.              Pilgrimage ends at Marietta Square
Friday, April 10 – ATLANTA (dual routes)
STANDARD ROUTE, Pilgrimage for Immigrants:
8 a.m.               Gather at Nipponzan Myohoji-Atlanta Dojo, 1127 Glenwood Ave., Atlanta 30316
8:30 a.m.        Pilgrimage begins
10 a.m.             Georgia Detention Watch press conference at ICE Field Office, 180 Spring St., Atlanta
12 p.m.             Speak at 13th Station of the Cross at the Catholic Charities’ Good Friday Pilgrimage, Georgia Justice Project, 438 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta
Afternoon       Join Good Friday pilgrimage to King grave sites; then walk back to Nipponzan Myohoji-Atlanta Dojo
ALTERNATE FRIDAY ROUTE, Catholic Charities’ Good Friday Pilgrimage:
9 a.m.               Begin at State Capitol, Washington Street side between MLK Jr. Drive and Mitchell St.
1 p.m.               Ends together with standard route at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Crypt
Buses will be available at conclusion of event to transport participants from King Center to the State Capitol area.

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