Southeast Texans stand with refugees in candlelight vigil

Southeast Texans stand with refugees in candlelight vigil
Southeast Texans stand with refugees in candlelight vigil

Southeast Texans gathered outside the Event Centre in downtown Beaumont on the evening of Feb. 3 to recognize refugees affected by the travel ban.

The ban, effective Jan. 27, excludes citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) from entering the U.S. for 90 days and suspends Syrian refugees indefinitely, the Guardian reported Jan. 31.

Tsagoi Jennings, who is a descendant of the Kiowa tribe, played haunting melodies from his Native American courting flute while people gathered.

TJ Geiger wore a shirt that said, “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.”

“I’m a Christian,” Geiger said. “I believe that the basic tenant of my faith is that you show hospitality and welcome people who are in need.”

Geiger used to live in Beaumont and now lives in Waco, he said. He was back in town visiting and felt the event was important to attend.

Shelby Smith, who led the local women’s march Jan. 21 and organized the Facebook group Golden Triangle Indivisible, thanked everyone for coming.

“We are non-partisan, progressive, issue based, and we want to be peaceful,” she said. “This is why we are standing up for immigrants and refugees, all people together, and it doesn’t matter who they are or where they are from.”

“I want to start with a story; I was a storyteller in a past life,” she said. She told a parable about the difference between heaven and hell being whether or not the people learned to feed each other and live in community or starve through their selfishness.

“We are saddened, concerned and heartbroken about the recent ban,” said Terry Young from the Spindletop Unitarian Universalist Church. “It’s been a heartbreaking week … and I’m sure that many of us who showed up on this cold, windy night feel the same way.”

Young emphasized a need for love and kindness in her address.

“Love trumps hate, love is the way, and we are all here to support one another.”

Jerome Cabine from the Office of Family Life at the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont also addressed the crowd. His wife is an immigrant from Central America, he said, who teaches 12th grade theology at Kelly High School.

Cabine talked about the temptation to want to be right about religion or politics instead of being kind, and said the definition of compassion is “entering into suffering with others.”

“We are freedom fighters,” said one of the final speakers, Tiffany Malony, who runs LoveYoga. “Our spirit is resilient, and we have been called up. The arc of truth may be long, but it bends toward justice.”