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Faith Leaders Call for National Unity at Idaho State Capitol Following Contentious Presidential Election

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- At the Idaho State Capitol, faith leaders led attendees in song while others poured sand into glasses to symbolize coming together as a nation after the 2016 presidential election. -  - ANNELISE EAGLETON
  • Annelise Eagleton
  • At the Idaho State Capitol, faith leaders led attendees in song while others poured sand into glasses to symbolize coming together as a nation after the 2016 presidential election.
Leah Victorino spoke through tears as she relayed her feelings to a crowd at the Idaho Capitol on Nov. 9—the day after an especially divisive general election left controversial businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump president of the United States.

"I feel helpless," she said.

After a call for unity made by Boise-area faith leaders gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday afternoon, Victorino sat on a bench under the rotunda gathering her thoughts. A graduate student of global development and social justice at St. John's University in New York, she said the election left her feeling sad and worried for those who might be marginalized by a Trump presidency.

"The people that can have hard conversations with others need to start doing that and not be complacent," she said. "Hopefully, people have a wake-up call and feel empowered to have a conversation about privilege."

Local faith leaders of all stripes made the call for a post-election gathering at the Capitol more than a week ago, but few said they could have imagined the election going the way it did, with Republican nominee Trump upsetting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Clinton, a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, had been favored by most pollsters to win the general election.

"I'm interested in how we'll move forward in practical terms, but I'm more interested in how we'll move forward in this way," said Episcopal Bishop for Idaho Brian Thom, gesturing toward his heart.

For attendee Renee Johns, a member of Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship, President-elect Trump is terrifying for his staunch anti-immigrant and refugee rhetoric, as well as repeated misogynistic and racist comments made before and during the campaign. Johns said she has worked with refugees since the 1990s and is worried his administration will make the U.S. less hospitable for people fleeing persecution in their home countries.

"I'm scared for women, I'm scared for minorities," she said.

Nearby, Al Borg-Borm said Trump has set himself apart from other Republican presidential candidates by running a divisive campaign. Unlike candidates like Mitt Romney or John McCain, said Borg-Borm, Trump's campaign opened a door to extreme and hate-filled elements in American society.

"Those were statesmen who worked for the betterment of society," Borg-Borm said, referring to past GOP presidential candidates. "The president-elect ran a campaign of fear."

Faith leaders in attendance, however, stressed unity, urging others to reach out to people all along the political spectrum.

"Red or blue, victory or not, we need each other," said Rev. Sara LaWall, of Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.