September 05, 2008

Keynote Speech at the Unity Rally by the Rev. Miguel Rivera, in Shenandoah, PA

SHENANDOAH, PA- As an immediate response due to the racial tensions that are developing, a "Unity Rally" was organized by members of the Shenandoah's faith community, where the Rev. Miguel Rivera, President of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) was invited as keynote speaker.

Dr. Agapito Lopez from Hazleton PA and Rev. Maria Velez, the only Latino Evangelical Pastor in Shenandoah, opened the doors of the most prominent Pentecostal Hispanic Church in the city, to a "Prayer and Fellowship" meeting, where over 300 neighbors of the community, civic leaders and Crystal Ramirez, the widow of Luis Eduardo Ramirez (the young Latino immigrant who died, due to a violent and lethal assault by four Anglo high school students, while returning from work to his home during the afternoon hours last month) were present.

These are excerpts of the Rev. Miguel Rivera's keynote message at the church and to those in attendance;

"On this day, the Latino Evangelical Church here in Shenandoah, PA and veteran Latino advocates from Hazleton PA, open the doors of God's House of Worship to all grieving members of this community where Justice and Hope are the main reasons for our prayers.

The animosity and racial intolerance that has spread all over Main Street and downtown America, needs to be stopped by the prudent and fair actions of local law enforcement agents, city council members, teachers, clergy and most important, the need for a comprehensive immigration reform passed by members of Congress, which will bring closure to all the hate and frustrations that arise among our communities, who are struggling in their efforts to understand and adapt to the presence of over 12 million undocumented immigrants, an issue that is being used as a power punch for political purposes by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Many of these communities are aware of the benefits of the hard working undocumented immigrants, their support to the local economy by their creative entrepreneurs and skilled labor and most important for their strong traditional family values, which is consistent with their motivation. and advancement to assimilation while learning English and enjoying their first steps to become "los nuevos Americanos".

But thousands of good stories are suddenly shattered by acts of discrimination and criminal behavior, which happened here in Shenandoah, PA.

It is even worst when outsiders assemble themselves not far from where we are today to promote racial intolerance, hate and discrimination, capitalizing and taking advantage of such a sad and violent incident, blaming in this case, the victim Luis Ramirez to further advance their agenda of bigotry and polarization of our communities.

Luis Ramirez was a decent human being, a good husband and an excellent father that did not deserve to be killed just for being a "Mexican Latino".

It is worst today when we know that the perpetrators of such horrendous crime are young kids, high school students and football players of this community, which makes almost impossible for us to comprehend how much hate and rage can overcome young children of such a peaceful and humble Town here in Pennsylvania.

One thing I know for sure, this environment of hate and discrimination against Latino immigrants was initiated when Mayor Lou Barletta from the neighbor town of Hazleton PA, took advantage for political purposes and advocated on behalf of an anti-immigrant local ordinance, that later was declared unconstitutional by a Federal Judge.

Mayor Barletta; You are responsible for the death of Luis Ramirez and for the uprising of hate crimes in these region.

It is also very surprising to us that, such violent incident and hate crime, that has a lot in common with white supremacy gang violence seen in other parts of the Country, where racists organizations are moving forward recruiting young kids and forcing them to prove themselves worthy of being part of their crime enterprises, needed the exposure and moral pressure from many Shenandoah residents, in order to have these four assailants being prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

That's why, MALDEF Attorneys and the National Coalition of Latino Clergy (CONLAMIC), have asked the Department of Justice in Washington DC, to monitor the actions and procedures of the District Attorney and the Judge assigned to this case, in order to have assurance that Justice will prevail.

To the Latino families, here in the Shenandoah community I say the following; Bring your kids to school this coming week and do not be afraid. Local school officials and the Police Department, are duly responsible to ensure there welfare and security at school. Also, this is a fundamental right as per the U.S. Supreme Court decision, that every child in this country, not regarding their legal status all are entitled to benefit from our public school system and education.

To the Mayor of this town of Shenandoah, I say; do your best to STOP, members of the City Council, who are trying to emulate Hazleton's actions against Latino undocumented immigrants. Be Advised that we are ready to fight in court and we will prevail once again as we prevailed against the forces of evil, hate and discrimination in Riverside, NJ, Farmers Branch, TX and Hazleton PA. Latino advocates are truly united and we will not stop, never will stop to support any Latino-American community who is being hijacked and forced fear and prompted to discrimination.

CONLAMIC pastors and our leadership from Allentown, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, will continue to visit with Pastor Maria Velez here in Shenandoah and be known that, while today we Pray inside these four walls of the Church, we are surely ready to bring hundreds of Latino evangelical church members of every city before mentioned and have a prayer rally at the steps of City Hall to send a message across America that the power of prayer can even move the rock solid mountains of Shenandoah and as evangelical christians, we will not tolerate these acts of violence and discrimination.

To Ms. Crystal I say, be calm and be assured that, you are part of our family and will be there for you and your children, as per the Bible demands that we are called to care for widows and orphans in the our midst.

May the LORD Bless Crystal, Luis Ramirez's children and all members of the Shenandoah community".

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