The Rev. Jen Stuart, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, opens an Interfaith Vigil hosted by the church and CWJFON by reading the names and ages of victims of several recent hate crimes.

By Abigail Scholar | Photos by Rob Fraser

Nine months ago, while working side by side with Rev. Juli Reinholz and the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition, Juli told me about an incredible opportunity that was opening up with Central Washington Justice for Our Neighbors (CWJFON). They were beginning their search for an Executive Director and she felt that I would be a great fit.

Funnily enough, another founding board member, Tylene Carnell, and I had already been in touch working on immigrant justice through the founding of what is now the Spokane Immigrant Rights Coalition. What was crystal clear to me was that this new organization, and the incredible people involved, felt like the perfect home for me. I have been truly blessed to be supported by a board of directors that care about their community, those they know and those they have never met.

In a time when immigrants are being demonized, it is those that we don’t often know, that need us the most. The question that we seek to answer is: how do we support our most at risk neighbors, loved ones and friends, who are in peril of losing the country that they call home? CWJFON, housed here at Ellensburg’s First United Methodist Church, is the sanctuary and home for those people.

Members of Temple Shalom in Yakima attended the Interfaith Vigil hosted by CWJFON and First UMC. About 100 people from various churches and synagogues were in attendance.

Earlier this week CWJFON and FUMC Ellensburg hosted a vigil for the 13 people murdered last week in hate crimes across our country. Now, more than ever, our scriptures demand that we be the hands and feet of God as we demonstrate our care for the refugee, the stranger, the alien.

The perpetrators of these hate crimes, whipped up by hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric, believe that those who have different colored skin or come from a different religious tradition are dangerous to American values. Our own experiences and scriptures show us that nothing could be more far from the truth. These terrible events reinforce the importance of the work we are engaged in.

Over the past year, CWJFON has been fortunate enough to raise $103,000 to support its mission. This amount has allowed us to do the basic work of getting an office location fixed up and ready to serve clients, and to provide training for our board and staff, but more importantly it has given us the space to provide Know Your Rights presentations, speak to college staff and students at EWU, and CWU, advocate at public actions where those frightened voices cannot speak and it has given us some breathing room while we actively search for an immigration attorney to work at our site.

We have been involved in developing pro-immigrant city ordinances which are about to pass in Spokane, and we are actively working with our local elected officials to evaluate their protocols to ensure that cities in Eastern Washington are free of fear for these neighbors whose children go to school with our own.

Central Washington is an approved Conference Advance Special (#339) so you can send your gifts to the PNW Conference Treasurer’s Office: P.O. Box 13650, Des Moines, WA 98198. You can also give directly to support their work via the CWJFON website.

Right now, we are at a point where we have been offered an incredible opportunity for funds that would truly set us up for a robust and healthy start in 2019. For every dollar donated to CWJFON between now and December 31st, they will be matched up to $10,000.

So, I ask of you, can you help us continue on this road side by side as our partner in making our towns a safer and more caring community for our immigrant neighbors?

Abigail Scholar serves as executive director for Central Washington Justice for Our Neighbors.

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