CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Clergy members from Charlottesville and across the nation have gathered at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church to start Walk the Walk, a nine-day journey to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about immigrants living in sanctuary.
“Today is the day where people of faith from all over the country have gathered to amplify Maria’s call for sanctuary and for justice,” Reverend Phil Woodson said.
Maria Chavalan Sut is an indigenous Guatemalan who came to the United States in 2015 seeking asylum, hoping to make a better life for her and her family. Instead, she’s living in sanctuary at a Charlottesville church, at risk of being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported.
“She escaped persecution, she escaped all of this danger and death to come here and make a better life for herself and her family, and is now being threatened to be sent back into that very dangerous atmosphere,” Woodson said.
Now, Sut, religious leaders, and activists are calling for change.
“We’ve lived here for more than 500 years, resisting a system that does not work. It needs to be changed,” Sut said.
Members of the Faith in Action Network and others are marching to the nation’s capitol, planning to cover about 15 miles a day. They’re demanding liberation for Sut and others in similar situations.
“To change the system, the best example is Jesus. He even taught us with parables,” Sut said.
Sut hopes the march will spread her message to raise awareness of the realities many immigrants face when coming to the United States.
“Do not incarcerate people. Do not separate families. There is not a need for someone to be locked in a church. The military has not worked for me. It serves to kill. It is not good,” Sut said.
Rev. Woodson said he hopes Sut’s message will reach to political leaders, as well.
“My hope is to build a public knowledge and public pressure, specifically on our elected and civic leaders, to address issues of sanctuary, to offer asylum to people who truly need it,” Woodson said.
The group plans on arriving in Washington, D.C on Friday, August 28, on the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington.