More than 100 people gathered to promote peace late Tuesday during a candlelight vigil outside Olympia City Hall, with participants singing songs with simple refrains such as “we tear down walls together.”
Leaders of the local faith community organized the vigil to support the Olympia City Council’s recent sanctuary city resolution as well as the Olympia Charter of Compassion. The charter outlines a set of civic values, such as respecting one another, engaging in civil dialogue, and speaking out against bigotry.
The Rev. Amy Walters LaCroix of First Christian Church in Olympia praised the council for joining other sanctuary cities in pledging to protect immigrants and refugees. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut federal grant money to those cities if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
In another controversial move that has ignited protests across the country, the president recently signed an executive order that temporarily bans immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. A judge has halted the order and its legality is being reviewed in federal court.
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Several participants at Tuesday’s peaceful vigil said Trump’s actions fly in the face of American values and unnecessarily put people at risk.
“We are counting on you and stand in solidarity with you,” LaCroix said to city officials. “We are grateful for your courageous stand.”
Mayor Cheryl Selby thanked the vigil participants as well as state lawmakers for supporting Olympia’s decision to stand by its sanctuary city resolution.
“I feel very fortunate that we live in a state that also has our back,” Selby said.
Several Muslim attendees Tuesday agreed that the Olympia area’s attitude of respect and acceptance is stronger than in other parts of the United States.
“I always feel welcome in Olympia,” said Zahir Ahmed, who moved to the area with his wife, Naila, in 2009. “This community is a wonderful community.”
Olympia resident Zahid Chaudhry recalled how his father and grandmother left India as Muslim refugees in 1947 during the violent collapse of the British Indian Empire. He said Olympia is the type of place that can help other refugees like his father and grandmother find their way to a better life.
“This is a great, amazing community that provides a nurturing environment for all,” he said. “We need to stay vigilant.”
Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh urged the community to reject discrimination and stand for compassion.
“We unfortunately live in a time in which the desire to drive out others still exists. But we also live in a time in which the willingness to be open to receive those who have been driven out still exists,” he said.
“Whether it be crossing the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean, whether it be crossing by foot or by boat or by airplane, we must be on the side of the refugee, the immigrant, the seeker of asylum.”
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The local group called the Faith Action Network will rally to support refugees at 12:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 9) on the steps of the State Capitol Building in Olympia.