Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Hundreds Attend 'Sabbath Against Separation'

Gloria Mazo leads the crowd of more than 300 in "Adonai, Love Me," by Nefesh Mountain. Mazo invited everyone to join her and musicians Rabbi Gary Mazo and Scotty Varble. The Message photo by Trisha Hannon Smith.

Rabbi Gary Mazo welcomed an overflowing crowd at Temple Adath B’nai Israel on June 24 with an observation of joy and wonder. 

“This is more people than we get on Rosh Hashanah,” he said to more than 350 people in attendance at the “Sabbath Against Separation” interfaith prayer service. Rabbi Mazo was joined by local religious leaders and community members to speak out against recent actions separating children from their parents at the United States - Mexico border.  

”We are commanded to help other strangers. Not in spite of the fact that they are strangers, but precisely because of it,” he said. “‘They’re not my problem’ appears exactly never in our sacred text. ‘To separate out the young and the babies’ appears exactly never in any of our sacred text.”

“We are insulted by the racist justification at invoking the name of Jesus, peace be upon him, who would be the first to rebuke these people who invoke his name,” Bashar Mourad, representative of the Islamic Center of Evansville, said to the audience. “This is not just a matter of religion: this is a matter of morality and it is a matter of character.” 

Several leaders of local churches read published statements from leadership renouncing current immigration policy and the “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute all illegal immigrants. 

Benedictine Father Godfrey Mullen, rector of St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville, read a statement from Pope Francis, published earlier in the week via Twitter: “A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity.” 

Father Mullen continued, reading a statement issued on June 13 by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, that states in part, “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety.” 

Rev. Kevin Fleming of First Presbyterian Church in Evansville, after reading a statement from the 2018 Presbyterian Church General Assembly condemning the policy of separating young children from their parents, stated, “Presbyterians would usually take 20 years or so to adopt that. They did it in about 30 minutes,” emphasizing the point of unity and agreement within the church leadership. 

Prayers were offered throughout the service and music was provided by Rabbi Mazo and Scotty Varbel. During the final song, the two were joined by Gloria Mazo, who taught all in attendance the song in American Sign Language and invited any choir members in the audience to join her. 

Other local leaders and church officials echoed the common theme of encouraging the current administration to reverse the separation policy through finding common ground. 

Michael Austin, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, told the crowd, “These are not Democratic issues, they are not Republican issues; they are human issues, and they are American issues.”