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 Minnesota’s Faith Leaders Organizing to Support Refugees, Decry New Executive Order, Urge Calls to Congress

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – (March 6, 2017) – “We are still called by our sacred scriptures to welcome the stranger and support refugees,” said Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC), who made the following statement  in response to today’s revised executive order from President Trump.

 

Trump has rewritten his executive order to ban travelers from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days; suspend refugee resettlement for 120 days; and drastically reduce the number of refugees the United States welcomes from 110,000 to 50,000, a deeply significant cut. Make no mistake—this new order is concocted to have the same impact as the original executive order while avoiding court proceedings.

 

By barring individuals from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, this rewritten executive order remains a Muslim ban. Banning refugees from all countries for 120 days will still grind refugee processing to a halt. Refugees are already the most thoroughly-vetted individuals in the United States, undergoing biographic and biometric checks, medical screenings, forensic document testing, and in-person interviews.

 

Each step of the process is time-sensitive. Any pause will cause checks to expire, forcing refugees already approved for entry to wait months and even years as they go through multiple security checks all over again and as their lives hang in the balance.

 

On January 30, when an historic assemblage of faith leaders from Minnesota’s Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Evangelical and Mainline Protestant faith communities came together to stand our ground against executive action targeting Muslims and curtailing refugee resettlement in the midst of another global crisis, they spoke passionately in support for refugees and people who are strangers in our land.

 

This ban was passed under the false pretense of keeping Americans safe, yet there have been no deaths in the United States from extremists with backgrounds in any of these six banned countries.

 

MCC Refugee Services

“There are direct impacts of this order on the families that MCC serves,” says MCC Director of Refugee Services Ben Walen.

  • Abdi, a Somali refugee who works at a turkey processing plant, eagerly awaits the arrival of his wife and four-year-old child.
  • Hawo, a Somali refugee living in a Minneapolis suburb, is scheduled to be reunited soon with her four children.
  • A Karen refugee family, Kyaw and Nah and their small children, hope to travel soon from a refugee camp in Thailand to Minnesota, to restart their lives here in the United States.

“These families, and many others who are in the final stages of refugee processing, will be indefinitely delayed by this executive order, as their background and security checks will likely expire during the 120-day resettlement suspension. Those from Somalia face an even more uncertain travel future, as their country—the country they had to flee due to persecution—is on the order’s list of banned countries.

Minnesota has long welcomed refugees, offering them safety, opportunity, and hope. In turn, refugees have enriched our communities, strengthened our economy, and connected us to the world. With the numbers of refugees worldwide at an all-time high, it is vital that our state and country continue to offer this welcome to refugees.”

Faith leaders to meet again

Top leaders of the faith communities who gathered to embrace Muslims and refugees January 30 have stayed in touch. They will meet soon to determine next steps in their support. They urge Minnesotans to oppose the order by calling their Senators and Representative at (202) 224-3121 and asking them to do everything in their power to see the executive order rescinded.

 

About Minnesota Council of Churches

The Minnesota Council of Churches’ mission is to manifest unity in the church and to build the common good in the world. The Minnesota Council of Churches programs align with three broad categories: welcoming refugees, mobilizing the faith community to engage in public policy, and strengthening communities through relationships and understanding.  For more information, visit www.mnchurches.org.

Note to media:

Find statements from major faith leaders, including the ones below, on the Minnesota Council of Churches website: https://is.gd/FaithLeaders. Press may call MCC for the contact information for any of these willing leaders.

  • Rabbi Morris Allen, Minnesota Rabbinical Association
  • The Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
  • Imam Hassan Mohamud, Minnesota Da’Wah Institute in Saint Paul
  • Carl Nelson, President/CEO of Transform Minnesota, Executive Board Member of National Association of Evangelicals
  • Bishop Bruce Ough, Dakotas/Minnesota Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister of Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ
  • Bishop Brian Prior, Episcopal Church of Minnesota
  • Bishop Ann Svennungsen, Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
  • Imam Asad Zaman, Muslim American Society of Minnesota
  • Bob Oehrig, Executive Director of Arrive Ministries
  • Micaela Schuneman, Refugee Services Director of the International Institute of Minnesota
  • Imam Abdisalam Adam, Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Minneapolis

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“Actions that threaten violence and create terror in the hearts of people who are targeted are abhorrent in the eyes of Christ,” said Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

 

“We at the Minnesota Council of Churches refuse to be idle while our Jewish brothers and sisters are being targeted. Minnesota and the United States have recently seen an uptick in anti-Semitism – numerous acts of graffiti, signs on the University of Minnesota campus. We denounce anti-Semitism and stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters as they walk in their faith.

 

“Late last year we encouraged readers of our News for the Common Good newsletter to report evidence of hate speech by partnering with Human Rights Watch and using their cell phones. Fear-inducing gestures like yesterday’s bomb threat at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center remind us of the need to be vigilant against hate and anti-Semitism. We call upon all Minnesotans to stand against actions that demonize or terrorize our Jewish friends and neighbors. We continue urging Minnesotans to report hate speech and anti-Semitism wherever it may be found.”

Christian leadership is about standing up for the values and morals of Christ and discipling others to do the same. This is a necessarily political thing because it involves the polis – the people – and how we are to live together. But the Minnesota Council of Churches and our members have never struggled with fulfilling our call to be involved in shaping society and doing so within the broad confines of existing law.

 

The reality of the American mission field in which God has placed us is that we live in a pluralistic society and a multicultural democracy. This is a good thing. There are so many things that could divide us. The church seeks to be a source of unification and peace. This is why the Minnesota Council of Churches developed Respectful Conversations – community events that help people empathize with each other. These are conversations designed not to change minds, but soften hearts.

 

As much as God has given us a vision for the just world we are called to co-create – a world where the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, and the stranger welcomed – no one religious group should run our nation. It was not designed for that. We don’t want the ability to violate the Johnson amendment. It’s not hard to obey. The rule that we struggle to follow – both because it is simple and because it can be so very, very hard – is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

This statement was read today by Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, at a unified faith leaders’ press conference:

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.

Minnesota Council of Churches, 122 Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55404, www.mnchurches.org

For immediate release

MINNESOTA’S FAITH COMMUNITY EMBRACES REFUGEES

IN RESPONSE TO TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. – (January 30, 2017) – We are called to welcome the stranger, love all our neighbors, and stand with the vulnerable, regardless of their religion.  We pray that compassion for the plight of refugees will touch our 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.

That was the call to action voiced today by Minnesota faith leaders gathered in a church where the congregation is currently sponsoring an Eritrean family who recently arrived in Minnesota through the work of the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services.

“As Christian leaders, we are called by our Scripture and God to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner,” said Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) CEO Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin.  “Today we stand our ground against executive action curtailing refugee resettlement in the midst of another global crisis.”

United Methodist Bishop Bruce Ough said, “Refugees arrive among us not only with their need, but also bearing gifts of energy, resourcefulness, and fundamental hope that may contribute to the renewal of the society and the church.  It is not Christ’s call on the church for a just society to abandon strangers who are at risk of violent harm but to partner with them in finding hope.”

“Our shared religious values compel us to welcome the stranger into our midst,” said Imam Asad Zaman, executive director, Muslim American Society of Minnesota.  “We are a nation of immigrants and refugees.  From pizza to the sambusa, from Google to the iPhone, we have benefitted greatly from the immigrants and refugees who have blessed us with their presence.”

Carl Nelson, president and CEO of Transform Minnesota, continued saying, “As evangelical Christians we will stand with refugees. The world changes but the Church’s calling doesn’t. Rather than cowering in fear derived from false facts about refugees, let’s act boldly with faith in eternal truth.”

Rev. Canon Michael Pipkin, speaking on behalf of Episcopal Bishop Brian Prior, said the Bishop would “continue to support our faith communities in the work they do alongside other denominations and organizations to provide respite and future hope for those who have been the recipients of the worst injustice that this world has to offer.” He concluded that he would “call our leaders in government to policies that promote fairness and justice for all.”

Chemberlin went further, “This Executive Order entitled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States is a misstep, built on misplaced fear.  The Cato Institute says the chances of being killed by a refugee from one of the seven countries listed in the Executive Order is 1 in 6.4 billion per year.

“We must confess that there have been times when we have been so afraid of our neighbor that we have teetered on the precipice of violating our deeply held faith values.  We will not give in to that temptation, rather we will listen to the voice of God calling us to deep compassion.

“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.

“Call your elected representatives, legislators, and other political leaders.   Ask them to oppose the Executive Order that thoughtlessly and haphazardly disrupts the efforts of the people of the United States to offer safety and welcome to refugees in need.”

About the Minnesota Council of Churches www.mnchurches.org:  MCC represents up to 1 million Christians in Minnesota in the following denominations: African Methodist Episcopal Church, American Baptist Churches USA, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of God in Christ, Church of the Brethren, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Mennonite Church, Moravian Church, National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, National Baptist Convention, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church.

The Minnesota Council of Churches’ mission is to manifest unity in the church and to build the common good in the world. Its programs align with three broad categories: welcoming refugees, mobilizing the faith community to engage in public policy, and strengthening communities through relationships and understanding.

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Contact:  Jerad Morey, Program and Communications Director, MCC, 612-230-3211, cell 507-403-0070, j.morey@mnchurches.org

Ginger Sisco, Sisco Public Relations, 763-544-0629, cell 612-581-4272, ginger.sisco@tela.com