MADISON, Wis. - A local pastor is spreading a message of "love thy neighbor" in his west side neighborhood by placing a sign in his yard with a strong message promoting inclusion.
The idea came from an Immanuel Mennonite church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, that designed the sign for its own congregation after an uptick in racist incidents across the country post-election. After several incidents targeting minorities in Madison in the last two weeks, Michael Winnowski decided to promote the signs locally.
The sign reads: "No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbor" in English, Spanish and Arabic.
"These two other languages, Spanish and Arabic, represent the two specific groups that were targeted during the campaign and I don't want them to feel targeted after the campaign. I want them to feel safe. They should feel safe in the United States," Winnowski said.
The signs immediately caught the attention of his Hill Farms neighbors and started a chain reaction, inspiring people to ask where they could purchase their own signs. In a week, Winnowski already has 250 orders from neighbors and other residents around Madison. He said he has also gotten requests from people living out of state.
"I want them to feel welcomed in my country and in my neighborhood. I don't think that needs to be top down. I think they can be from grassroots," he said "I would love to see these signs all over Madison and all over our country or something like them. Just getting out the message that we are not a country that wants to get rid of certain classes of people," Winnowski said.
It's a message on inclusion he hopes will make minorities feel welcomed in the neighborhood and throughout the country. As a pastor of Geneva Campus Church in Madison, he wants minorities to feel welcome.
"Not every white evangelical Christian believes that what is going on in our country is good, especially the message that people are not welcome because they happen to come from Mexico or they happen to be Muslim. I don't want all Christians to be thought of as bigots," he said.
Winnowski is selling the signs for $10. Originally, he planned to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the Immanuel Mennonite Church. The church instead told him to use the funds to invest back into the community, which he plans to do.
Volunteers will help distribute the signs. Anyone who purchased signs will also be able to pick them up at a West Madison location that has not been determined.
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