Religious Leaders Unite in Opposition to Refugee Ban

Earlier this week I signed the Interfaith Immigrations Coalition’s letter supporting refugee resettlement. I was not alone. Over 3500 religious leaders have signed this letter protesting President Trump’s recent ban on refugee resettlement. His executive order that suspends travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, halts resettlement of refugees from Syria and gives preference to Christian immigrants has been roundly condemned by religious organizations from all sides of the political spectrum. The protests have come from almost all mainline Protestant groups and the Catholic church, as well as the National Association of Evangelicals and World Relief. This level of agreement among such disparate religious group is rare.

The wide condemnation of the president’s executive action is because it is not just a change in policy on behalf of the government, but it is a radical departure from one of the core values of our religion and our country’s heritage. The Christian concern for refugees is based in the many laws in the Hebrew scriptures that require them to welcome the alien. There are more than 90 Biblical passages that speak of welcoming the sojourner, the foreigner and the alien. This teaching as been ingrained in the mission work of almost all Christian organizations.

The religious call to welcome the stranger is echoed by the fundamental American message of hope to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Whether our forebears were English, French, Russian, Armenian, or from the Middle East it is very likely they came to this country because it was an escape from oppressive conditions at home.

Throughout U.S. history the call to welcome refugees has had to contend with a strong undercurrent that opposed immigrants–whether they be Germans, Italians, Chinese or other countries there is always part of the American society that wanted to keep the other away. In almost all cases the American welcome has prevailed over the calls to close the doors. This hospitality has led to the rich diversity that makes us a stronger nation.

it is understandable that security concerns should be considered in immigration. In fact we already have such strict immigrations screening that there have not been any terrorists attacks by foreign born immigrants since 9/11. To ban refugees from war-torn Syria is to stop us from helping families who have lost everything, children without parents, and people who can’t go back home because they opposed the terrorists that we oppose. This is contrary to the fundamental principles of our faith and country.

In addition to signing the coalition’s statement I am convening a meeting of Huntington religious leaders, including Christians, Jews and Muslims to discuss a coordinated response to support refugees. I will also be preaching on the long history of Christian support for refugees on Sunday.

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