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Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network discusses upcoming election

Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries hosts the second October Election-Fest event

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — In partnership with the Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network (PIYAN), Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries (RE&WIM) held its second October Election-Fest event last week, an intercultural voting dialogue for young adult leaders of color to discuss issues of concern for them as they navigate a difficult and critically important election year.

Moderated by Beth Olker, field staff person for Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries in RE&WIM, the event had participants from across the United States and other countries.

Because of the different cultures represented at the event, the conversation was translated in real time into Spanish and Korean. Following opening remarks and prayer by Amy Mendez, Associate Director of RE&WIM, Olker began the discussion with a thought-provoking comment. She asked the group to describe the memory of registering to vote or voting for the first time.

Participants responded with a variety of memories. For many white participants, fond memories of time with parents and a problem-free experience registering and exercising their right to vote for the first time were among the memories shared.

But for the people of color and the new immigrants in the group, the memories were not quite so fond.  One Latino immigrant recalled that although she had all of the needed credentials to vote, there was always a problem when she actually tried to vote — not only for the first time but for many other elections.  “I now realize that was a form of vote suppression,” she said.

Olker next asked the group about the role that faith played in their voting. Karen Hernandez-Granzen, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton, New Jersey, said, “My father left a powerful legacy. In the early 60’s, he taught us that the church needed to be involved in every aspect of its members’ lives.” Hernandez said that the church had influenced every sphere of her life, including voting.

Min Lee, the Korean representative for PIYAN whose parents are immigrants, said politics were not discussed in her household as she was growing up. “For me I’m not sure if my faith has told me anything about voting,” she said. “But I do know we are supposed to pray for our leaders like we pray for the world and we pray for our church. So, it is our duty as a citizen to vote.  And because we are Christians that are citizens of America, we should vote because it is our duty. So whether you like the person who was elected or not, we should pray for them and pray that God uses them for his plans.”

Ebenezer Alonge,  another member of PIYAN who is originally from Nigeria and came to the U.S. in 2017 to attend seminary, said, “I believe very strongly that the direction for our lives as a nation, as individuals, as families depend on who our leaders are.” He says not only does he believe strongly that Christians should vote, but that Christians should seek political office.

Beth Olker

Olker closed the event by asking the group to share through the chat feature of Zoom the most important lesson that individual PIYAN members wanted future generations to know about faith and voting.

And while the group didn’t speak, their written responses were very telling of the thoughts of this group of young adult Presbyterian leaders. Answers included responses like: Jesus was political;  your vote matters; shine your light into the political landscape; remember who and whose you are; vote with the values of the kindom; make sure your vote puts love into the world; love your neighbor; we need leaders with compassion; and then the simple one word response: vote.

And while early voting has started around the nation, individuals can visit the websites and, the latter of which is multilingual and includes territories and districts throughout the U.S. along with other resources to help individuals become more informed before casting their ballots.

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