Sunday, February 12, 2017

Welcoming the Stranger - A Faith Statement - Created for a February 3,2017 Press Conference and Interfaith Prayer Service by Pastor JaredCarson (Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM), Rabbi Larry Karol(Temple Beth-El, Las Cruces, NM), Bishop Oscar Cantu (Roman CatholicDiocese of Las Cruces, NM), and Radwan Jallad (Islamic Center of LasCruces)

We come from different religious communities, each with a heritage of offering help and support to the stranger and to people in need.   The figure of Abraham/Ibrahim receives accolades in each of our traditions for his unabashed welcome of people who came to the family tent. One explanation surmised that the tent must have been open to all sides so that he could best serve the visitors who came his way. 

Proclamations about welcoming the stranger are expressed 36 times in the Hebrew Bible and constitute central principles in the New Testament and in the Qur'an.   The stranger might have been someone from another town or a person from many hundreds of miles away in a different country. In either case, hospitality was a sign of faithfulness to God and service to our fellow human beings.

Many of us have an immigration story that explains how we came to live in the United States.   The motivations then, were no different than those who are seeking to live here now: a hope for a better life, a desire to improve their family's lot, and a sense that our nation offers a pathway to a life of security and peace.   

Based on religious teachings and personal and family history, each of our faith communities has created programs to assist refugees from war-torn countries to provide them with safe harbor and a new life in countries and communities where their dreams can find fulfillment.   Organizations are working hand-in-hand with governments to assure that refugees are treated with respect and dignity throughout a tightly-monitored process before moving on to the nation in which they hope to live.  

We agree with the importance of keeping our country secure, as the administration stated in its executive order last Friday, but we are convinced that temporarily banning vulnerable refugees will not enhance our safety nor does it reflect the values we share. Instead, it has caused immediate chaos, separating families, disrupting lives, and denying safety and hope to those who have already suffered.   The promise that members of a certain religious group from regions of conflict will be given priority denies the humanity that they all share.   

We urge the current administration to allow these refugee programs to continue their work with citizens from nations that have been temporarily banned.   We also urge all people to exercise their conscience in contacting those in our nation's leadership to express the convictions of our faith traditions, whatever they may be, and to keep in mind humanitarian concerns as we consider the fate of those created in the divine image.   

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