Bowling Green joins in unity, shows solidarity

Claudia Hanes, a 66-year-old retired Bowling Green teacher, waves her “unity flag” and holds a Women’s March sign during the Unity Walk on Feb. 4 in downtown Bowling Green. “We’re here to support our local community of refugees and immigrants and just anyone who feel ostracized by this man,” She said. “[We want] To show them that the community is bigger than the man.”

Kathryn Ziesig

Hundreds of people of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs and ethnicities joined together at First Christian Church for a vigil and to begin their walk of solidarity through downtown Bowling Green Saturday afternoon. The marchers peacefully walked together holding signs, flags and candles in solidarity for immigrants and refugees.

The line of people walking down State Street from First Christian Church wrapped all the way around Fountain Square Park and led to Christ Episcopal Church.

President Trump’s executive order placing a travel ban on certain countries sparked protests and vigils across the country with people rallying together in response to show support for those affected by it.

According to the Unity Walk: Honoring Diversity in Bowling Green’s Facebook page, First Christian Church, the Islamic Center, the International Center, Christ Episcopal Church and the Bowling Green Women’s Intercultural Café all came together to form the event to show Bowling Green is a strong united community.

“This walk is for our neighbors, not our hypothetical neighbors, but our actual ones,” Megan Huston, the senior minister of First Christian Church, said. “Our prayer vigil is an opportunity to remember who we are and to assure our neighbors who happen to have been born in a different country or who may call god by a different name, that they are not alone.”

The vigil and walk began at First Christian Church with speeches from multiple religious and organizational leaders in the Bowling Green area. Each expressed their wishes to make Bowling Green a welcoming place for all who wish to come.

“Bowling Green is one of the most welcoming communities I have ever lived in in the United States, and I am proud to call it home,” Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the International Center, said. “I am glad that we have decided to embrace humanity instead of fear.” 

The walk concluded at Christ Episcopal Church where participants were welcomed inside for refreshments and fellowship with one another.

According to Rev. Kyle McDougall, associate minister of First Christian Church, they had prepared about 250 candles thinking that would be a sufficient number, but were excited to see the numbers of people grew far beyond 250. Participants were handed candles before they ran out while coming into First Christian Church and lit them for their walk through downtown.

Claudia Hanes, a retired teacher from Bowling Green, carried a “unity flag”, an American flag with a peace sign made from the stars, during the walk to show her support along with the other participants. She hoped to spread the message Bowling Green is not interested in the division of people, but instead unifying the community and loving one another.

Many other people held signs showing their thoughts and support for the cause saying things like “Unity is Love” and “Refugees Welcome”.

“It’s not what America is about, and it’s not the message we’ve sent to our neighbors ever, and I’m just appalled,” Hanes said.

People of different backgrounds and ages came to show their support. Kim Timmer, a mother of two and Bowling Green resident brought her kids to the walk to teach them valuable lessons about diversity and acceptance.

“We brought the kids,  so that they can see that when communities come together it’s a beautiful thing,” Timmer said. “We want them to see people loving each other and treating each other kindly.”

Reporter Kathryn Ziesig can be reached at (270)745-0655 and [email protected]