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Refugee ban, border wall: Religious leaders respond

Syrian refugee children climb on a fence to watch a football training workshop in a refugee camp to provide Syrian and Jordanian trainers with football training skills, at Azraq refugee camp near Al Azraq city, Jordan, on Nov. 16, 2015. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Muhammad Hamed *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-TRUMP-REFUGEES, originally transmitted on Jan. 25, 2017.

(RNS) Religious organizations, leaders and individuals have been quick to react to President Trump’s expected executive orders on building a wall along the Southern border, on negating sanctuary cities and on banning refugees from Syria and other Muslim countries.

The reaction came mostly from the religious left and was highly critical of the moves.

Here is a selection of their responses:

Diana Butler Bass, theologian and author

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” Lev 19:34

The Rev. William T. BarberRepairers of the Breach

“These acts smell of racism and reek of xenophobia. They are the antithesis of the Bible, which declares, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

National Association of Evangelicals

The National Association of Evangelicals, which praised Trump’s order earlier this week to ban federal funding of organizations that provide abortions outside the United States, called the refugee order “alarming.”

“Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years through World Relief and other federally approved resettlement agencies. We don’t want to stop now,” NAE President Leith Anderson said.

Council on American-Islamic Relations

“Such executive orders and laws will not improve our nation’s safety and security, rather it will reinforce fear, hate, and division within our country. Immigrants and refugees have become legislators, doctors, engineers, and businesspeople who positively contribute to what America is — targeting them is misguided and against our country’s core values.” — CAIR-Minnesota.

 Imam Omar Suleiman, Yaqeen Institute

“(Trump) is trying to overwhelm us and he cannot be allowed to succeed. We cannot be shocked into paralysis. Whatever you can get involved with and push back on, do so. He’s working fast, we need to work furiously. Please keep all of the people and organizations that will be affected in your prayers.”

Muslim Public Affairs Council

“We recommit our pledge to stand up for other communities who are being impacted by the detrimental policies that have been implemented and will be implemented. Now is the time to stand up for each other.”

Secular Coalition for America

“It seems transparently obvious that President Trump’s executive order is an attempt to make good on his discriminatory campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States under the guise of protecting national security. It is imperative that we call this what it is: a thinly veiled attempt at imposing a religious test for anyone seeking entry into the United States. We are committed to fighting for a secular government and will vehemently oppose any policy that prejudicially targets people because of their faith or lack thereof. Now more than ever, Americans of every faith and none must stand together to protect the Constitution and the principles of religious freedom our country was founded on.”  — Larry Decker, executive director

American Humanist Association

“Trump’s plan to issue an executive order placing a temporary ban on refugees is deeply concerning. It runs counter to America’s commitment to welcoming people in need, and the selection of seven countries rumored to be affected by the ban, all of which have Muslim-majority populations, indicates possible discrimination against Muslims. If the ban allows exceptions for those escaping religious persecution, will it be limited to Christians and Jews? Will it be inclusive of nontheists who have been under threat of persecution for blasphemy? We hope that President Trump is inclusive in his approach. ” — Roy Speckhardt, executive director.

The Rev. Franklin Graham

The Rev. Franklin Graham, who heads Christian international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, told the Huffington Post Wednesday he doesn’t believe Trump’s proposed action banning refugees from entering the U.S. needs to be reconciled with biblical commands to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger.

“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue. We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.” — Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the USCCB Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin.

Tweet from Joe Tobin, Archbishop of Newark

Paul Raushenbush, Auburn Seminary

“Today will be a day of shame for America. … Revelation time is here. Who are we and to whom do we belong? It is a time for our deepest wisdom to guides us and our brightest love to shine in solidarity. ”

The Rev. James Martin, Society of Jesus, America Magazine

“At the Last Judgment, (Jesus) will say to people, ‘I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.’ And people will say, ‘When were you a stranger and we did not take care of you?’ And he will say, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ … It is Christ whom we turn away when we build walls. It is Christ whom we reject when we slash quotas for refugees. It is Christ whom we are killing, by letting them die in poverty and war rather than opening our doors.”

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

“At a time when so many people are fleeing unspeakable violence and persecution to seek refuge in the U.S., today’s decision is a drastic contradiction of what it means to be an American. As the world has its eyes on us, it is imperative that President Trump uphold the values that America has always lived by: compassion, empathy, family, human rights and protection for those seeking a safe haven from danger and persecution.” — Linda Hartke, president and CEO

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

The Rev. Samuel Rodrugiez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, released a written statement Thursday encouraging the president to work just as passionately to build bridges with the Latino community as he does his border wall and opposing any action that “would forcibly remove the 11 million undocumented people living, working and raising their families in the United States with the exception of criminals, drug dealers and others who bring shame and pain on our community.”

Rodriguez added:

 “I agree with President Trump that securing our borders is critically important to ensuring the safety of all Americans. I also agree with the administration that the American people have a right to determine who comes into our country, and to demand that our laws are respected in the process. However, our goal and our continued focus at the NHCLC will be to ensure these policies are always balanced by a respect for the sanctity of all life and the well-being of the immigrant.”

Unitarian Universalist Association

“We stand in a long tradition of radical hospitality. From the underground railroad to this very day, we have welcomed the stranger, sheltered the refugee, offered safe home, resisted racism, fear and exclusion. We will not be silent if families are torn apart, children terrified, parents detained. We are not accomplices to hate or reactionary fear. Our calling is to love and justice and faithful resistance. We will open our hearts, we will open our doors, to those who face the threat of deportation. All are welcome, period.” – The Rev. Victoria Safford, lead minister, White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Mahtomedi, Minn.

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

“Our historical experience as Jews who dwelled as guests in others’ lands sensitizes us to the imperative to ensure a just and compassionate immigration policy. We urge President Trump to endorse the principles of comprehensive immigration reform, including border security, as well as streamlined processing for visas and entry to the United States, a commitment to obey the rule of law, family reunification and a much-needed pathway to citizenship.” — Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director

American Center for Law and Justice

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of this conservative evangelical group, came out in support of the order to restrict the entry of refugees.

Cardinal Blase Cupich

In a mini-tweetstorm Thursday, Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich pointed to a previous commentary he had written for the Chicago Tribune in support of immigration and Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, in which the pontiff said, “When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.”

This story is available for republication.

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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