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Policy statement on immigration, refugees 2-10-17

By February 13, 2017No Comments

The Illinois Conference of Churches reaffirms their statement from 11-24-15

The Leadership Team of the Illinois Conference of Churches, in light of recent acts of terrorism, issues the following policy statement and invites our members, which includes 13 Christian denominations, to join us in affirming our responsibility to welcome refugees who seek asylum in our country. We trust the screening process for refugees, already in practice, to do what it is intended to do. We are particularly offended by the suggestion that any group of people would be singled out for exclusion and particularly by the suggestion any group would be asked to wear labels or have separate registration. By giving in to fear we are creating further division in our communities. We strongly denounce all acts of terrorism and offer condolences and sympathy to all victims and their families. In making this statement we are keenly aware of the scriptures on which our faith is based and how our savior was once a refugee seeking shelter in a foreign land while fleeing oppression.

They also agree with this statement from the Minnesota Council of Churches

As Christian leaders, we are called by our Scripture and God to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. Thirty-two years ago the Minnesota Council of Churches responded to that call. Today we stand against executive action curtailing refugee resettlement.

Our nation has an urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need of safety. Today, more than five million Syrian refugees flee violence and the hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in their home country.

We call upon the Trump Administration and all members of the U.S. Congress to demonstrate moral leadership and affirm their support for the resettlement of refugees from all over the world to the United States.

The United States already has the most rigorous refugee screening process in the world, involving the Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Counterterrorism Center. The process includes biometric checks, medical screenings, forensic testing of documents, DNA testing for family reunification cases, and in-person interviews with highly trained homeland security officials.

The U.S. Refugee Resettlement program has been and should continue to be open to those who face persecution, as enumerated under U.S. law, regardless of nationality or religion. Any proposal that would disqualify refugees from protection based on their nationality or religion insults our nation’s founding principles, contradicts our country’s legacy of leadership, and dishonors our shared humanity.

In a time when hard actions and sharp words have been directed at our Muslim neighbors, we pledge to walk with them and support their freedom to practice their religion. That is the American way. That is the way Christ would have us go. This country is built upon religious freedom.  The Islamic community in our country is vibrant and diverse, contributing much– as citizens, teachers, police officers, medical workers, tradespersons, community leaders, mothers and fathers.

As Christians, we are called to welcome the stranger, love all our neighbors, and stand with the vulnerable, regardless of their religion. We pray that in public policy discernment and all we do, compassion for the plight of refugees will touch your hearts. We urge all Minnesotans and particularly people of faith to be bold in supporting moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection.

…and they agree with the following from Churches Uniting in Christ.

While we are all Christian denominations, we hold fast to the principles of justice for all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or creed. To single out immigrants as a body in a discriminatory way is contrary to the events that created our nation, which is a nation of “immigrants”. With exception of the Native Americans, all of us in America are descendants of immigrants who came to this land seeking a better life or to voluntarily or involuntarily contribute to the building of this country.

Equally important are the unacceptable and exclusive limitations being placed on those of the Muslim faith who desire to come to America. Religious freedom and the ability to practice one’s chosen faith without discrimination is the core of American history. This sudden departure from such a foundational belief sets this country on a course that ultimately benefits no one and harms everyone. To use “fear” as a tactic to justify such actions is exploitative and manipulative. Further, to be inhospitable and rejecting of refugees is contrary to all that we believe about serving the “least of these” and as Americans it is abhorrent that the leadership of the richest nation in the world would present our country in such a selfish and self-serving manner.

We speak out today about these things because the words and warning of this statement and poem written by Pastor Martin Niemöller of Germany from a detention center (concentration camp) around 1937 still ring true:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

The point is clear. . .we are our brothers and sisters keepers! We must speak out, not just for those like us, but also for those not like us!