While our CEO was on vacation, the director of MCC Refugee Services spoke at a press conference last week organized in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Trump administration’s Muslim ban. Here is his statement:

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My name is Ben Walen, representing the Minnesota Council of Churches, where I direct the refugee resettlement programs.

The Council’s 25 member church denominations have repeatedly spoken in opposition to the President’s Executive Orders on immigration and refugees, from the first one in January 2017 – a blunt tool of religious discrimination against Muslims. As the Executive Orders went from 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0, they were written to hide their intent – but they remained grounded in religious animus toward those of the Muslim faith.

In January 2017, Bishop Bruce Ough of the United Methodist Church gave the following statement in response to the first Executive Order.  It remains true today:

Jesus was explicit in his teachings. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40)

Refugees and immigrants arrive among us, not only with their needs, but also bearing gifts of energy, resourcefulness, love of liberty, and hope. These gifts have always contributed to the renewal of our society and the church.

Above all, these strangers bring to us the Christ. When we welcome a stranger, we welcome Jesus, and when we welcome Jesus, we welcome our creator. Refugees, immigrants, those yearning to be free—these are the ones whom Jesus spoke about when he said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35).

Repeatedly Jesus tells his disciples: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

The original Greek language is far more poetic, powerful, and prophetic. In finer translations of the Greek language, we hear Jesus saying: “Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth.”

The very soul of our country is at stake. When we abandon strangers who are at risk of bigotry, xenophobia, and violence, we not only destroy their hope, we destroy our own souls. When we fail to assist the refugees fleeing danger, we not only place them in harm’s way, we do harm to our own souls. When we build walls of concrete, or walls of divisive rhetoric, or walls of fear, or walls of immoral immigration policies, we build a wall around our own souls.

We call upon people of faith to say “no” to the walling off of our country and our hearts and say “yes” to their hope—our hope—for new life. Let us unite and work together to bring the soul of this country to a living birth!

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