Cooperative Baptist Fellowship staff joined ministers of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., at a prayer vigil at the Atlanta Detention Center to speak out on behalf of Greenwood member Gilles Bikindou, who is being held at the detention facility and set to be deported to the Republic of Congo on Friday, Feb. 23.
Bikindou, who came to the United States legally in 2004, is being treated for a life-threatening medical condition. Read more about Bikindou here: “N.C. church appeals for its member scheduled for deportation this Friday.”
Stephen Reeves, CBF’s associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy, gave the following statement at the Feb. 21 prayer vigil:
Good morning. My name is Stephen Reeves and I lead the advocacy efforts of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. We are national network of about 1,800 churches headquartered in Decatur and Greenwood Forest Baptist Church is one of those congregations. CBF Advocacy is committed to advocating on behalf of, and alongside our immigrant and refugee neighbors.
I wish that I could stand beside Mr. Bikindou this morning but this is as close as we can get because he is locked up in the building behind us as if he were a threat to our safety. But instead of a threat, by all accounts he was a model member of society. He followed all the rules and requirements placed on him by our system. His only mistake was believing that America still welcomes the persecuted and those yearning to be free. We are here this morning asking for mercy.
We want our leaders to be better reflect our traditional Christian values of welcoming the stranger and loving our neighbor. What positive public purpose is served by kicking Gilles out of this country? This decision is particularly unjust considering Mr. Bikindou’s medical condition. I’m here this morning asking Director Sean Gallagher to reconsider the order of deportation.
I’m also here this morning in support of Pastor Lauren Efird and the members of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church. They have been incredible, faithful and inspirational advocates on behalf of their brother. They have generated remarkable media attention and public support including the support Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. The sad fact is however, that this same scenario is playing out for families and congregations across the country.
National faith leaders are remarkably united across the ideological and theological spectrum in our calls for justice for the immigrants and refugees in our midst. We need more people of faith like the members of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church to stand up and act for justice and we need our elected officials and government leaders to listen and act. We know that Gilles fate is in the hands of Director Sean Gallagher and we’re asking him this morning to act.