(RNS) — “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
These words, written in the Hebrew Scriptures' Book of Leviticus thousands of years ago and echoed repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments, play a key role in the history of refugee policy in the United States.
Refugee resettlement began in our country in large part because religious congregations wanted to live out Gospel values by welcoming vulnerable people beyond our shores.
Nearly 40 years ago, the faith community's leaders helped to create a robust public-private partnership for welcoming those fleeing persecution, oppression and war. It's a system in which all Americans can take pride. The Episcopal Church has supported this program through Episcopal Migration Ministries since its inception in 1980.
In recent years, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has come under threat, as the number of refugees allowed into the country each year has been cut by more than two-thirds. The 2018 and 2019 refugee admissions goals of 45,000 and 30,000, respectively, were already the lowest since the program began. The administration’s decision to admit a mere 18,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2020 will leave thousands of refugees who could otherwise be resettled out in the cold.
These low numbers have nothing to do with our nation’s capacity or willingness to welcome refugees. There is strong support for refugee resettlement throughout our country. The Episcopal Church is committed to continuing this tradition of welcoming refugees to peaceful homes and hopeful futures in the United States. Episcopalians across the country offer their time and financial resources to welcome refugees and live Christ’s way of love. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we look first to our values, rooted in sacred Scriptures that remind us to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger among us.
We are not alone. EMM’s network of partners have seen an outpouring of support and local community engagement from the American people in support of refugees, and we are eager to continue working with these communities to build a way forward for welcome.
When brothers and sisters abroad face persecution and are displaced from their homelands, we Americans are unfailing in our desire to help. Refugee resettlement embodies that caring spirit and our faithful commitment to assisting the least among us. Turning our backs on refugees contradicts our Christian values and harms our nation.
With nearly 26 million refugees worldwide, over half of whom are children, the United States must do her part to alleviate the suffering of these valued members of God’s family. We must stand in the breach for our refugee brothers and sisters who seek a haven of peace and renewal here. They will be safe. And the United States will be blessed. For this is the way of God, the way of Love; for God is Love.
(The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry is presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)