Interfaith Vigil Toolkit to Protect Family Unity
Host an Interfaith Vigil
Hosting interfaith vigils provides the opportunity for faith leaders to express how protecting family unity and welcoming immigrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations is part of all faith traditions, reflecting on the deep scriptural and spiritual roots of our work. Even small events, multiplied across the country, will send a powerful message to the Trump administration and Congress that keeping families together and welcoming immigrants and refugees are part of our values as a country.
Steps to a successful prayer vigil:
The set-up for the vigil should ensure that all faiths are respected and welcomed with awareness and consciousness. Drawing on the faith traditions and rituals can make vigils much more powerful, raising the creative and dramatic tension.
Sample Vigil Program:
Welcome—a few words about the focus and purpose of your vigil. Why now? What’s the concern? Who’s affected? How can this vigil convince your Members of congress to support immigrants and refugees? What values shape your faith traditions’ response to these concerns? This may take the form of brief comments from one of your speakers, or a welcome and an opening prayer.
Music- Invite local musicians who share similar values to join your vigil, you can have them do one or two songs throughout the program. Choose songs that are connected to the cause, or songs that everyone knows and can sing along.
Opening Prayer—Ask clergy or key lay leader to open with a prayer Song—A singer, choir or instrumentalist can perform, or a few singers can lead participants in singing. Reading—for ideas see suggested readings below.
Speaker—A personal story from a local community member of how the unjust family separation and “zero tolerance” policies have impacted families. More than one story can be integrated throughout the program as well. Creative Ritual: Integrate creative symbols or rituals from faith traditions that draw more attention to the importance of supporting immigrants and refugees (see above suggestions)
Prayer—One person may lead the prayers, or you might invite several faith leaders to pray according to their traditions. Involve vigil participants in praying a refrain throughout your prayer time, or pray in a circle so everyone has the opportunity to pray. Consider offering prayers in multiple languages.
Song & Closing—reiterate the focus and purpose of your vigil, and send participants off with a call to welcome newcomers and raise their voices in the public sphere to stop the deportations. Consider a procession or march to another symbolic and strategic location.
Sample Invite to Your Member of Congress:
Dear Honorable Senator / Representative,
Thank you for your support.
We would like to invite you to attend [ORGANIZATION/ COALITION]’s prayer vigil/ press conference on [DATE] at [LOCATION] along with faith leaders and civic leaders who are speaking out against the family separation policy.
We would be honored to have presence as a speaker at this press conference/ vigil. Other speakers include [list 2-3 top speakers] Please let us know as soon as you can if you are able to attend by contacting me at [email]. If you are able to be there we will connect about the details on messaging and agenda.
If you have planned an event or vigil, we encourage you to reach out and invite members of the media. Look online at the local publications or outlets you would like in attendance and search for past articles on immigration or refugees, then consider pitching your event to reporters who frequently cover those issues or other community issues if there is not a designated immigration or refugee reporter.
Consider inviting the editorial director at your local newspaper. By inviting members of the press, you will be able to further share our message of welcoming to a larger audience and also inspire local media to cover immigration issues more frequently in a positive way that highlights broad community support for immigrants and refugees.
To invite multiple members of the press, send a media advisory at least two full business days ahead of the event. Ideally, send the media advisory one week before the event and then again the day before your event.
Please see the draft pitch email for media invitation, as well as the draft media advisory below (next page).
Draft Pitch Email for Media Invitation and Follow Up from Advisory
I hope you are well! I wanted to let you know of a potential story opportunity in regards to the family separation and “zero tolerance” policies announced by the Trump administration. On DATE, ORGANIZATION will host an interfaith vigil. Faith and Community leaders including LIST, will join families and impacted immigrants to stand in solidarity with immigrant neighbors.
In light of the continued and heated political debate, we would like to highlight the human stories behind the program. Given your past articles highlighting immigrants in our communities, I would love to offer you an exclusive interview with the group next DATE if you are interested!
I have attached the invitation flyer to this email with a full list of individuals in the group, but please let me know if you are interested or if you have any questions!
Draft Media Advisory Ahead of Vigil/Event
For Immediate Release
NAME, PHONE NUMBER
Date of Event, Time, Location
As Administration Separates Families at the Border, Local (Faith/ Human Rights Group) Hosts (Vigil/Rally) (Name of Town)
Your City Name, State Abbreviation – As the (City/Town Name) community seeks to demonstrate interfaith support for immigrants refugees, leaders from (Organization/Congregation) will host (event type) standing in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors. They will be joined by XX (list other special guests, especially clergy or elected officials). Participants will discuss how immigrant families positively impact the community. All participants will be available for interviews before and after the event.
WHAT: Event type with faith and community leaders to welcome immigrant families
WHERE: Address of event
WHEN: Date and time of event
SPEAKERS: List of all speakers and their titles
DETAILS: Add event details such as security (if applicable), special visuals (religious symbols, art pieces, etc.), or any other important event information.