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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Members of the Fort Wayne Solidarity Network, from left, Evaristo Olivrea, Bill Kummer, John Korcsmar and Tom Shoemaker, stand together to unveil the “Solidarity Hotline” at Saint Joseph Parish on Sunday.

Monday, October 09, 2017 1:10 am

Group started to help immigrants

Phone hotline for protecting rights

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

A few dozen people gathered at St. Joseph Catholic Church Sunday afternoon, not to worship but to publicly launch an effort intended to help immigrants and others facing intimidation.

No one stands alone, was their message.

The bilingual event, which included representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the Northeast Indiana Congregation Action Network, featured the unveiling of the Solidarity Hotline number, 317-759-9474.

The 24/7 telephone service is staffed with bilingual dispatchers for people who feel threatened or experience a traumatic incident with police or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Within minutes, callers will receive on-site support from trained “moral observers,” who will ensure their rights are protected.

The hotline has been available in Indianapolis.

The Fort Wayne launch followed months of work and gatherings during which people of varied nationalities, faiths and political beliefs heard stories of the city's vulnerable and excluded, said Theresa Driscoll, a Solidarity Network coordinator and St. Joseph parishioner.

“We are realizing that without vigilant watch, our nation, state and cities can become places we don't recognize, places where many are made to feel they do not belong, places that are inhospitable to individuals and families of all nationalities and races,” she said.

“But alongside this realization has come a conviction that when people of faith unite, we can make a difference.”

Two women, including Patrice Phillips of Many Nations Church, offered testimony about why the Solidarity Network is needed in Fort Wayne. As the daughter of a black father and a white mother, she said, she knows what it feels like to not belong.

“I can only imagine what it has been like for immigrants in our community,” she said.

St. Joseph's pastor said his is an inner-city, bilingual, working-class parish, and sees people excluded and living in poverty, fear, inequality and division.

“As pastor,” the Rev. Evaristo Olivera said, “I know that too often we want to maintain the peace and act as though everything will continue as normal.

“But now, things are not normal. My request today, to all, is to create spaces in your congregation for conversation around real life and deep values.”

For more information or to get involved, call Driscoll at 260-747-7422.

asloboda@jg.net