About 500 people representing numerous nations marched for immigration reform as part of a Holy Thursday pilgrimage.
The eight-mile march began at in Smyrna at 10 a.m. and ended at the Marietta Square later in the afternoon.
One of the organizers of the march was Mike Okuto, director of adult faith formation at St. Thomas the Apostle. He explained that he and the other participants chose to march in remembrance of Christ’s suffering.
“Christ had a pilgrimage from the point that he was condemned to the point that he was crucified,” Okuto said. “That’s why the walk is a pilgrimage for that.”
Okuto explained that like Christ, modern Christians face injustices everyday.
“One of them is the injustice of immigration and how people are vilified just in terms of that,” he said. “And Christ himself was an immigrant, so there’s a part of walking involved in all those things.”
There was much diversity among march participants with people representing many nations, and ages ranging from infants to seniors. Marchers prayed and sang hymns in English, Spanish and Swahili. Not all the marchers were St. Thomas parishioners.
Russ Foss, a member of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Marietta, chose to participate in the march after he completed a 30-week course on Catholic social justice. He hoped the march would make a statement to politicians.
“We have a lot of Christian legislators who seem to be more concerned about the economics or the fact that people are illegal,” he said. “And they don’t realize what Jesus would do in this case or how should they act as Christians rather than as politicians.”
Okuto hoped the march would make people reconsider their prejudices about immigrants.
“My hope is that people first of all start to think why are people even here in the first place,” he said. “And the second thing is to start seeing them as human beings, not leeches, not people who are coming here to steal from them, people who are taking their jobs or things like that.”
Many members of the community greeted the marchers positively. Some supporters stopped along the way to hand out water to march participants. However, not everyone was pleased. One man leaned out of his car and shouted, “Head back to the border.”
“There have been people who have been supportive,” Okuto said. “But at the same time you have people who are not supportive. Somebody just passed in a car and actually called us names. You get different people; that’s inevitable and you have to understand that.”
The march culminated at Marietta Square with prayers and a foot-washing ceremony that commemorated Christ washing the disciples' feet after the Last Supper.