The Quad-City faith community does not pretend to have a solution for the problem of Central American children crossing the U.S. border by the thousands, but religious leaders say they know what can be done: Show the youngsters compassion.
That is the focus of a rally called "Love Without Borders" set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17, at the corner of 2nd and Harrison streets in downtown Davenport, the location of a memorial dedicated to the wave of Irish immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Tens of thousands of youths from Central America, generally unaccompanied by adults, have crossed, or attempted to cross, the U.S. border this year, many of them trying to escape violence in their home country. Caring for them has become a crisis because of their sheer numbers.
"We may not be able to stop the wars in Central America, but we can welcome these children. We can come up with creative solutions," said the Rev. Christine Isham of Edwards Congregational Church in Davenport. She is part of a planning committee for the rally that includes representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.
Too much misinformation is being circulated, said the Rev. Clark Olson-Smith of All Saints Lutheran Church in Davenport, who added it is difficult to fully understand the social forces that prevent some Americans from showing true compassion for these children.
"Jesus Christ was a refugee," Olson-Smith said. "We need to raise awareness and change the conversation, from those who believe these kids are criminals, or carrying disease or infiltrating our country with nefarious plots."
Bishop Martin Amos of the Catholic Diocese of Davenport agreed.
"We are trying to raise consciousness," said the bishop, who will open the Aug. 17 rally with a prayer. "These are kids, and they need to be treated in a way that we, as Christians, would expect them to be treated."
Historical precedent was raised by Rabbi Henry Karp of Temple Emanuel in Davenport in a letter to the editor of the Quad-City Times published earlier this week. Karp wrote about the "kinder-transport" that saved thousands of Jewish children from Europe before World War II, but he noted that it was not welcomed anywhere in the world except England.
The rally will focus on the stories of the children at the U.S. border.
"We will lead and close in prayer, but the rally will very much center on allowing the children to speak," said the Rev. Rich Hendricks of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad-Cities, one of the rally organizers.
Amos pointed out that the rally will not be concerned with immigration reform, which, he said, is a separate, complex topic.
Rather, the bishop wants to see the conversation changed to be about more fully caring for the children already gathered on the border.
"What do you do with these children who flee their own country and travel in such danger? My hope is that we raise the consciousness about the whole situation and decide what we need to do in a humanitarian way," Amos said.
The rally will include ways to take action. Hendricks said participants will be encouraged to contribute to rescue efforts of their individual faiths, such as Catholic Charities USA, Lutheran Social Services and others. Organizers also hope to distribute postcards that can easily be mailed to legislators to share views on the topic.
Information about the "Love Without Borders" rally will be distributed at area churches and other faith locations over the next several days.