"I was a stranger, and you took me in." -Jesus

When I heard last Friday of the Executive Order of President Trump on Immigration I joined many religious leaders national and local in signing this letter from Church World Service to Mr. Trump and Members of Congress.

The letter opposes "any policy change that would prevent refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, or individuals who practice Islam and other faiths from accessing the U.S. refugee resettlement program."

On the same day, Bishop Rickel wrote this statement in which he opposed the Executive Order, reminded us all about the work of our own Diocese of Olympia's Office of Refugee Resettlement, and  included the following list of considerations:

Key Points to Remember

  • There are more than 65 million people displaced by war, violence, famine, and persecution.

  • The United States already has the most rigorous and thorough vetting process for allowing refugees into our country.

  • Since 1975, there have only been 8 deaths linked to acts of terrorism committed by refugees or asylum seekers.

  • Since 1975, there have been 438 deaths linked to acts of terrorism committed by US Citizens.

  • The RRO helps resettle 190 individuals each year.

  • The RRO provides a variety of services to help refugees resettle in a new culture and a new community.

  • Any ban on a specific religion or nation is against our nation’s values.

A broad swathe of the Christian community is opposing this Executive Order.  This letter from some key Evangelical leaders is an example.    The President of the National Association of Evangelicals called on President Trump to continue settling refugees and compared the rigorous requirements of the refugee resettlement process with the lax requirements for entry of other foreign nationals to question the value of the executive order to accomplish better security for Americans.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued this statement  in which they affirmed their belief in

"assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity."

The Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago issued a statement  in which he warned that "the world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life."  He called upon Catholics to "put aside fear and join together to recover who we are and what we represent to a world badly in need of hope and solidarity."

In our own Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, less than one week after hosting the inauguration prayer service at the National Cathedral, called upon President Trump to "continue the powerful work of our refugee resettlement program without interruption."  The Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, said in a statement:

"For me, as a Christian, I cannot conquer the evil in this world.   But as a Christian, I know that I do not have to.  Jesus has already won that battle for me. I am called simply to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.   I can see the image of God in 'the other,' and give thanks for it." 

I'm grateful to The Rev. Susan Creighton for calling my attention this morning to a powerful post by Richard Mammana from the independent Anglicans Online website in which he reminds us that

"It is not a partisan matter to note that in the cores of scriptural revelation we receive—the Torah and the Gospels—there is utter clarity about the way in which believers are to treat those who come to us from without:

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. 

[Jesus said:] I was a stranger, and ye took me in.

"This is no silly proof-texting; it is one of the epicenters of the social vision God has revealed in the scriptures, and it provides the person who would be a faithful Anglican today with a stark opportunity for discipleship."

I've been with refugees a few miles from ISIS-controlled areas in Iraq and Syria.  These were Christian refugees, Muslim refugees, Yazidi refugees.  For the record, I do not associate all Muslims with the actions of a few.   I welcome Muslim neighbors among us.  I'm presently reading a book about the rise of ISIS.  I'm as aware as anyone of the evil being done in the name of God by terrorists in the name of Allah, and I'm in favor of policy which protects Americans from terrorists.  I do not believe last Friday's Executive Order advances that interest.  In fact, I'm afraid it emboldens terrorists in their recruitment efforts.

Those of us who are pastors in the church know we are all serving congregations whose members, although vowed to live into our Baptismal Covenant, find themselves differing in political philosophy and affiliation as they seek to apply those vows to their commitments in the realm of public policy.

What I want to stress at this moment is Christ's claim on all of us that transcends partisanship. What I want to stress is the challenge to us all of the Beatitudes, which I hope are still ringing in our ears from last Sunday's Gospel reading.

And in case you missed the link, here - thanks to the United Church of Christ, is a list of passages from the Bible which pertain to immigrants and refugees.

Sharon and I have a young friend in Salem, Oregon who with her husband is coordinating refugee resettlement in that city, having recently returned from a time living in Bosnia during which she and her husband witnessed the flow of refugees from Syria and the rest of the Middle East first-hand.  In a local media interview on January 19,  Anya reminded us that one out of every 113 people in this world are displaced persons fleeing war, violence, or persecution.  Anya's Christian faith motivates her, and I am inspired by the positive work she and Doug are doing there.

What can you do?  Here's help from Episcopal Migration Ministries to orient you to how to support refugees. 

In the short term, I encourage your attendance at the first of three sessions called "Islam 101" sponsored by the Adult Formation Ministry of St. Paul's Church beginning this Saturday, February 4 from 10 am until 12 noon.  Sessions two and three will be on February 11 and 18 on the same schedule, and all sessions are at the church at 2117 Walnut Street.  I urge you to meet some of your Muslim neighbors and begin building relationships that can lead to common caring and healing.