Refugee ban, border wall: Religious leaders respond

Syrian refugee children climb on a fence to watch a football training workshop in a refugee camp to provide Syrian and Jordanian trainers with football training skills, at Azraq refugee camp near Al Azraq city, Jordan, on Nov. 16, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-TRUMP-REFUGEES, originally transmitted on Jan. 25, 2017.

TheRev. William T. Barber,Repairers of the Breach

These acts smell of racism and reek of xenophobia. They are the antithesis of the Bible, which declares, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)

National Association of Evangelicals

The National Association of Evangelicals, which praised Trumps order earlier this week to ban federal funding of organizations that provide abortions outside the United States, calledthe refugee order alarming.

Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years through World Relief and other federally approved resettlement agencies. We dont want to stop now, NAE President Leith Anderson said.

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Such executive orders and laws will not improve our nations safety and security, rather it will reinforce fear, hate, and division within our country. Immigrants and refugees have become legislators, doctors, engineers, and businesspeople who positively contribute to what America is targeting them is misguided and against our countrys core values. CAIR-Minnesota.

Imam Omar Suleiman, Yaqeen Institute

(Trump) is trying to overwhelm us and he cannot be allowed to succeed. We cannot be shocked into paralysis. Whatever you can get involved with and push back on, do so. Hes working fast, we need to work furiously. Please keep all of the people and organizations that will be affected in your prayers.

Muslim Public Affairs Council

We recommit our pledge to stand up for other communities who are being impacted by the detrimental policies that have been implemented and will be implemented. Now is the time to stand up for each other.

Secular Coalition for America

It seems transparently obvious that President Trumps executive order is an attempt to make good on his discriminatory campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States under the guise of protecting national security. It is imperative that we call this what it is: a thinly veiled attempt at imposing a religious test for anyone seeking entry into the United States. We are committed to fighting for a secular government and will vehemently oppose any policy that prejudicially targets people because of their faith or lack thereof. Now more than ever, Americans of every faith and none must stand together to protect the Constitution and the principles of religious freedom our country was founded on. Larry Decker, executive director

American Humanist Association

Trumps plan to issue an executive order placing a temporary ban on refugees is deeply concerning. It runs counter to Americas commitment to welcoming people in need, and the selection of seven countries rumored to be affected by the ban, all of which have Muslim-majority populations, indicates possible discrimination against Muslims. If the ban allows exceptions for those escaping religious persecution, will it be limited to Christians and Jews? Will it be inclusive of nontheists who have been under threat of persecution for blasphemy? We hope that President Trump is inclusive in his approach. Roy Speckhardt, executive director.

The Rev. Franklin Graham

The Rev. Franklin Graham, who heads Christian international relief organization Samaritans Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, told the Huffington Post Wednesday he doesnt believe Trumps proposed action banning refugees from entering the U.S.needs to be reconciled with biblical commands to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger.

Its not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, thats not a Bible issue.We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families. Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the USCCB Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin.

Paul Raushenbush, Auburn Seminary

Today will be a day of shame for America. Revelation time is here. Who are we and to whom do we belong? It is a time for our deepest wisdom to guides us and our brightest love to shine in solidarity.

The Rev.James Martin, Society of Jesus, America Magazine

At the Last Judgment, (Jesus) will say to people, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. And people will say, When were you a stranger and we did not take care of you? And he will say, Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. It is Christ whom we turn away when we build walls. It is Christ whom we reject when we slash quotas for refugees. It is Christ whom we are killing, by letting them die in poverty and war rather than opening our doors.

 

"I was a stranger and you did not welcome me."

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.President Trump has announced that he will order the construction of a Mexican border wall, the first in a series of actions to crack down on immigrants, which will include slashing the number of refugees who can resettle in the United States, and blocking Syrians and others from what are called terror-prone nations from entering, at least temporarily.These measures, which mean the rejection of the stranger, the rejection of the person in need, the rejection of those who suffer, are manifestly unchristian and utterly contrary to the Gospel. Indeed, last year, Pope Francis said, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel." But maybe you dont want to listen to Pope Francis. Maybe you think that he was being too political. Or maybe you think Pope Francis is too progressive for you. Maybe you think that you have a right to refuse a person in need. And that you have the right to protect yourself. Well, we do have the right of self-protection. But refusing the one in need because you want to protect yourself, especially when the other is in desperate need and obvious danger, is not what Christianity is about. Its about the opposite. Its about helping the stranger, even if it carries some risk. Thats the Parable of the Good Samaritan in a nutshell. But if you still dont want to listen to Pope Francis, then listen to Pope John Paul II, St. John Paul II, who wrote dozens of times about refugees and migrants. Seek to help our brother and sister refugees in every possible way by providing a welcomeShow them an open mind and a warm heart, he said. And as if predicting our current situation, he said, "It is necessary to guard against the rise of new forms of racism or xenophobic behavior, which attempt to make these brothers and sisters of ours scapegoats for what may be difficult local situations."For this is an issue of life or death. Migrants flee from profound poverty, which causes suffering and can lead to death. Refugees flee from persecution, terror and war, out of fear for their lives. This is, then, one of the churchs life issues, so dear to St. John Paul II.But maybe you dont want to listen to St. John Paul. Maybe youre not Catholic. Then listen to the voice of God in the Book of Exodus, speaking to the people of Israel: You shall not oppress the resident alien [i.e, the refugee] for you aliens yourselves once, in the land of Egypt. Every American heart should be stirred by that. Other than the Native Americans, all of us are descendants of immigrants. We were aliens ourselves once.But maybe you dont want to listen to the Old Testament. Then, in the end, listen to Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, he provides a litmus test for entrance into heaven. At the Last Judgment, he will say to people, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. And people will say, When were you a stranger and we did not take care of you? And he will say, Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. Jesus himself is speaking to you from the Gospels. It is Christ whom we turn away when we build walls. It is Christ whom we reject when we slash quotas for refugees. It is Christ whom we are killing, by letting them die in poverty and war rather than opening our doors.Today, St. John Paul II said, the illegal migrant comes before us like that stranger in whom Jesus asks to be recognized. To welcome him and to show him solidarity is a duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself.So, reject these measures and welcome Christ. Call your local legislators and tell them to care for Christ. Write to the White House and ask them to protect Christ. Show up at town hall meetings and advocate for Christ. And pray for our brothers and sisters who are refugees and migrants. Because if you do not, and you reject Christ, then it is their prayers that you will need.

Posted by Fr. James Martin, SJ on Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

At a time when so many people are fleeing unspeakable violence and persecution to seek refuge in the U.S., todays decision is a drastic contradiction of what it means to be an American. As the world has its eyes on us, it is imperative that President Trump uphold the values that America has always lived by: compassion, empathy, family, human rights and protection for those seeking a safe haven from danger and persecution. Linda Hartke, president and CEO

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

The Rev. Samuel Rodrugiez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, released a written statement Thursday encouraging the president to work just as passionately to build bridges with the Latino community as he does his border wall and opposing any action that would forcibly remove the 11 million undocumented people living, working and raising their families in the United States with the exception of criminals, drug dealers and others who bring shame and pain on our community.

Rodriguez added:

I agree with President Trump that securing our borders is critically important to ensuring the safety of all Americans. I also agree with the administration that the American people have a right to determine who comes into our country, and to demand that our laws are respected in the process. However, our goal and our continued focus at the NHCLC will be to ensure these policies are always balanced by a respect for the sanctity of all life and the well-being of the immigrant.

Unitarian Universalist Association

We stand in a long tradition of radical hospitality. From the underground railroad to this very day, we have welcomed the stranger, sheltered the refugee, offered safe home, resisted racism, fear and exclusion. We will not be silent if families are torn apart, children terrified, parents detained. We are not accomplices to hate or reactionary fear. Our calling is to love and justice and faithful resistance. We will open our hearts, we will open our doors, to those who face the threat of deportation. All are welcome, period. The Rev. Victoria Safford, lead minister, White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Mahtomedi, Minn.

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Our historical experience as Jews who dwelled as guests in others lands sensitizes us to the imperative to ensure a just and compassionate immigration policy. We urge President Trump to endorse the principles of comprehensive immigration reform, including border security, as well as streamlined processing for visas and entry to the United States, a commitment to obey the rule of law, family reunification and a much-needed pathway to citizenship. Rabbi JonahDovPesner, director

American Center for Law and Justice

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of this conservative evangelical group, came out in support of the order to restrict the entry of refugees.

Cardinal Blase Cupich

In a mini-tweetstorm Thursday, Chicagos Cardinal Blase Cupich pointed to a previous commentary he had written for the Chicago Tribune in support of immigration and Pope Francis speech to Congress, in which the pontiffsaid, When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.

 

 

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