Press Conference on Yemen and the Border

Our second event for MLK day was a press conference called by members of the International Council for Urban Peace, Justice, and Empowerment as well as the Interfaith Ministries of Lorain in order to speak out against two ongoing humanitarian crises: the war and famine in Yemen and the waves of migrants along the U.S. border. The press conference took place at the South Lorain Branch Library on Homewood Drive in Lorain and was coordinated by Mr. Robert Moore of the Organizing Committee of Holy Days of Atonement. Both groups believed that Martin Luther King day is a symbolic time to publicly and collectively call on US leaders to take action to end the mass suffering resulting from both crises.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. was a ‘drum major for justice, ” said Imam Paul Hasan, head of the Interfaith Ministries of Lorain County. “He would be speaking out for justice in all its forms–both domestic and international, for people of all races, nationalities, religions and political views–if he were still living. The crises in Yemen and along the U.S./Mexico border are both inhuman and immoral. They are unacceptable. They need to end immediately. They will only end if people of conscience apply sufficient force and pressure to our elected officials to act morally and justly to end them both. We call on communities of all faith on MLK Day to pray, to speak and to act.”

On Yemen, the groups are calling for the end of US financial and military support of Saudi Arabia as a means of ending their bombing of Yemen in the ongoing civil war and encourage negotiations to end the war. Saudi military involvement is significantly responsible for over 50,000 deaths, two million people displaced, over three million women facing severe health risks and, according to a December report, 16 million people not having enough to eat and in need of emergency assistance–including 1.8 million children who are suffering from acute malnutrition. Hunger and famine are a direct result of the war and can only fully be eliminated by bringing the conflict to an end.

On the U.S.-Mexico Border, the groups are calling for the Trump administration to follow U.S. asylum law. U.S. Code (Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter II, Part I, 1158) recognizes the right of individuals to enter the United States to apply for asylum if they fear persecution in their home country. Yet, more than 6000 individuals who left Honduras are stuck on the Mexican side of the U.S. border. They seek asylum to escape violence in several Central American countries, but have been denied entry to the U.S. Thousands of children who previously gained entry into the U.S. have been forced to remain in prison-like detention camps separated from their parents. Two of these immigrant children have died while in U.S. custody in December. President Trump has used these legal asylum seekers as hostages to push for funding for his “border wall,” which was to be paid for by Mexico, not U.S. Taxpayers, according to his campaign promise.”

The groups believe that human beings on the border and being held in custody in the U.S. legally seeking asylum should not be political pawns and treated inhumanely. Asylum seekers need to be allowed to apply for asylum and families to be reunited.

In addition to Imam Paul Hasan, there was a great lineup of speakers, including such distinguished individuals as Mr. Ricky Smith, Founder of the Youth Football and Mentorship Program of Lorain; Mr. Greg Coleridge of Move to Amend (i.e. overturn Citizens United); Mr. Dave Hardy. Jr., CEO of Lorain City Schools; and Mr. Mark Jaffee, Religious Director for the Agudath B’nai Israel Congregation in Lorain who was especially poignant as he established parallels between those seeking to flee Germany in the 1930’s largely being denied asylum in the United States and those now encamped at the U.S./Mexico Border seeking political asylum.

Also, Mr. Coleridge, who used to work for the American Friends Service Committee in Guatemala, effectively described the desperate conditions that were motivating those in Central America to seek asylum in the United States. These are stories that we, sadly, are very familiar with, as we hear the stories of our clients every day.

Afterwards, there was a brief MLK Day tribute;  presided over by Mr. Tim Carrion, a local business and community leader;  in which emphasis was placed on the need to actively reach out to at-risk youth and urge them to not relinquish educational opportunities which are a tantamont to the achievement of a fulfilling, productive life. Fortunately, a mentoring group is being re-established in the Lorain area, just as Dr. King would have wanted.