“We protect our nation’s values and safety by continuing to strive to live up to our ideals.”

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As we’ve seen so many communities of faith decry anti-Muslim and anti-refugee rhetoric and actions, and urge us to stand for compassion, mercy and common sense, we have gathered their own words:

As a first step in protecting our values and safety, we must know who and where our greatest enemy is. Our greatest enemy is not the enemy out there or over there. Our greatest enemy is the invisible army that lives inside each of us and therefore among all of us, camouflaged, hidden, subtle. Within us hide terror cells of fear that tempt us to react in folly rather than act in wisdom. Within us hide the improvised explosive devices of anger that tempt us to respond to evil with evil, rather than seeking to overcome evil with good. Within us is the enemy spy called division, who tempts us to build power bases among “some of us” by building fear and prejudice against “others of us,” and so turns us against one another. Within us are enemy collaborators named naivete and denial, who tempt us to hope against hope that quick and easy answers will solve complex and long-standing problems. The ringleader of all these inner enemies is pride, both personal and national, that tells us we are a better breed of human being than others and so we deserve special privileges or special exemptions. If we fall prey to any of these hidden inner enemies that our faith traditions call “temptation” and “sin,” then whatever we do in relationship to outside opponents and threats will backfire. Coming from a spiritually wise and healthy place within, we will more wisely engage with every external threat. Rev. Brian McLaren, author, speaker, activist, public theologian and Auburn Seminar Senior Fellow, Marco Island, FL

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Once again, the poor and the oppressed are politicized; merely treated as pawns to be utilized for the advantage of others with power and with ulterior motives. Jesus knew something about this. His story is told through the lens of a refugee fleeing political aggression. There is nothing Christ-like in turning a deaf ear to the plight of those whose safety requires the abandonment of home, labor, and security; and who must become dependent on the kindness and compassion of neighbors across border, mountain, and sea. As a leader of a Christian denomination, I call upon those who govern in this United States to stop seeing the degradation and public humiliation of the immigrant and refugee as the pathway to either security or political expediency. The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

The fearful rhetoric of hate and exclusion that we Americans are hearing from some of our politicians does not represent the true values of our great country. As a nation of immigrants we welcome refugees fleeing war and religious or ethnic persecution. Our security comes not from closing our borders but from opening our hearts at home while we find the way to peace abroad by forging a united international response to terrorist groups such as ISIS. Gerry Lee, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Washington, DC

I want to invite people to remember we are all part of one human family and to remember that as Gods people we are all immigrants. Refugees seeking safety, who are from Syria or any other country where violence and conflict is a daily reality, need to find a safe place to live. Governors who publicly refuse to consider allowing Syrian refugees are fostering fear and prejudicial treatment of Syrians. The governors are creating an environment of racial profiling. We cannot claim to be the church and not challenge our Governors to be the voices of reason and respect and promoters of peace not fear. Bishop Julius C. Trimble, Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church

As people of faith, we are called to see with the eyes of God. We affirm our shared humanity and solidarity with all victims of violence around the world and denounce the spread of harmful rhetoric and vitriol towards Muslims and refugees fleeing Syria. As the blind man asked Jesus, “Lord, please let me see,” we too ask for a sight grounded in faith and not blinded by fear or hatred. Efforts by members of Congress, governors, and presidential candidates to rally and prevent the safe passage of refugees from Syria to the United States are deplorable and wrong. We must open our hearts and our homes to refugees of all faiths in recognition of our sacred responsibility to protect and nourish life. NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, Washington, DC

A 96 year old woman, on her way out from church this week, said it best through wisdom long gathered: “This is the time to remember what it is to be Christian. What we must do is TRUST GOD and WELCOME.” She wasn’t being paralyzed by fear; she was remembering decades of discrimination against Jewish and Catholic refugees, and Hungarian escapees, and Cubans fleeing communism, and Southeast Asians seeking safety — and she was choosing a compassion that lets love win, a hospitality that has benefited our nation by receiving the gifts and resilience of refugees within our shores for decades. The number of refugees who have entered the U.S. since 1948 closely mirrors the number of refugees — 4 million — currently fleeing Syria from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. We have opportunity to offer healing embrace to thousands of fleeing children and families who are vetted with meticulous scrutiny. Even France, following attack on their own soil, is vowing to not turn their backs against refugees. Let us in the U.S. not miss our opportunity to live fully our faith, and to break into the grave crisis of Syria with a great offer of hope. Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director, Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada

As with any sovereign people, our nation’s true character is tested in times of crisis. War and suffering in Syria and throughout lands in the Middle East, northern Asia and Africa are not matters from which the United States can suddenly isolate ourselves. Indeed, we have long been participants and, at times, leaders in those conflicted regions. The crises for “those people” now test the character of “our people.” To allow fear and fear-mongering to drive the American citizenry into reactionary policies devoid of reason, honesty, and compassion would prove a betrayal of the virtues we constantly profess to one another, the wider world and, not least, God. Honest, reasonable presentation of the facts about the exceptional measures our federal government employs in admitting refugees to our country cannot but be essential to guiding how we proceed. Rev. Dr. Bruce T. Morrill, S.J., Edward A. Malloy Professor of Catholic Studies, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, TN

Those who oppose receiving refugees keep citing safety. The question I ask is, “what exactly are we trying to keep safe?” This country has thrived precisely because it has committed to protecting and celebrating its diversity, and because it has not only received refugees, but been built by them. The best way to protect America is to hold more tightly to its spirit than to fear. And if we sacrifice its spirit — of freedom and, indeed, refuge — what is left to protect? Rev. Layton Williams, Pastoral Resident, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL

As Jesus so clearly put it, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35).

The United States exists because of the belief that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ, in his life and death, embodied the command he gave, “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” To reject those fleeing Daesh is to violate the founding principles of America and Christianity. Reverend Peter F. von Herrmann, Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Center Point, Birmingham, AL

As a person of faith, I encourage our legislators to remember that Syrian refugees are vulnerable families, women and children who are fleeing terror and violence. I also encourage our legislators to remember that we currently have in place an effective and successful vetting process that all refugees must pass before entering the United States. I believe, that in this moment, we have the opportunity to rise to our most deeply held values and to be world leaders during this deep humanitarian crisis. I hope that you will hear the voice of reason, compassion and faith and continue the Syrian refugee resettlement program. Carrie Newcomer, Musician, Quaker and Activist, Bloomington, IN

I believe the words of 1 John 4:18 that “Perfect love casts out fear.” We must conduct ourselves, then, based on love instead of fear. Fear of military might may win in the short term, but as evidenced in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ love always gets the last word. We protect our values by continuing to live them out an, in fact, living out our values is the best way to protect our long term security. Rev. David Livingston, Senior Pastor, St. Paul’s UMC, Lenexa, KS

I join with many faith colleagues in urging our state and national officials to admit Syrian refugees. The Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are filled with admonitions to “welcome the stranger” and offer hospitality as a genuine mark of faith. Jesus made it very plain as he talked about his identity with “the least of these,” in Matthew 25. Rev. C. Bruce Naylor, Co-Pastor, Southside Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), South Bend, IN

For over five years I served a church that housed the primary English as a Second Language program for refugees in central Texas. Every day hundreds of refugees from Iraq, the Sudan, Burma, and other war-torn places would fill our building as they faithfully and courageously built their new lives in America. Our congregation, our city, and our country are stronger because they are here. We realized that we protect our values and our safety, and we uphold the best of our religious traditions, by protecting the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. We protect our values by not allowing our fear to overwhelm our capacity to love. Rev. Joseph Moore, PC (USA), Member-at-Large, Mission Presbytery, Austin, TX

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The rise in Islamophobia since the Paris attacks, including suggestions from politicians that the U.S. needs to register Muslims and engage in aggressive surveillance of Muslim communities, puts our nation in danger. The best way to counter the security challenges posed by ISIS and other violent extremists is to combat Islamophobia, not to incite it. ISIS wants the West to fear Islam, to shut its borders to Syrian refugees, and to turn on its Muslim residents. These are the conditions that generate alienation and anti-Muslim racism and open the door for extremist propaganda to take root among a small minority of people. If we want to secure our nation, if we want to stand with Paris, we must begin by standing with Muslims in the fight against ISIS. Our friendships with Muslims, not our fears of Muslims, are the key to our nation’s safety and to any successful effort to defeat ISIS. Todd Green, Associate Professor of Religion, Luther College, Decorah, IA; Author of The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West (Fortress Press, 2015)

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul reminds them and us to “keep loving each other like family” and to not “neglect to open your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.” (Heb 13:1–2). As a person of faith, I am much more concerned about the risk of not welcoming refugees seeking safety from violence. If our trust is in God, we should not let fear take over and separate us from our mandate to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger. In the United States, where we have freedom of religion and enormous stability and security compared to so many other places in the world, our faith is very rarely put to the test in any way that truly requires courage. But here, we have an opportunity to be courageous, and to say that we refuse to give up core values of hospitality, generosity, love and compassion. Our faith that God is present in this crisis, our faith that angels may in fact be among us, is the test we face, and we can choose to meet it with courage and trust. Elizabeth W. Corrie, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Practice of Youth Education and Peacebuilding, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

The way in which we are invited to live as Methodists is to first do no harm. To block refugee access to sanctuary is to do harm and to deny the inherent worth of some of Gods children. Let us come from a place of love and not fear, to open our arms and hearts so all might thrive. Rev. Laura Rossbert, Minister of Justice, Christ Church UMC, Denver, CO

In my Thanksgiving sermon this past Sunday, November 22, I said, “I am grateful for Muslim refugees who come to this country. When my wife and I both went back to work after our oldest child was born, his very first babysitter was a Muslim refugee from a war-town country. We were scared, young parents, worried about our new baby. And this woman loved and cared for our child. So, I am grateful for Muslim refugees — they have cared for my family and enriched my life.” So, how can we protect America’s values and safety? We hold each other’s babies. Rev. Timothy B. Tutt, Senior Minister, Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ, Bethesda, MD

When I think of American values, I think of diversity, justice, freedom, and the value of each life. Operating out of fear and prejudice binds us from living into those priorities. Instead, we can allow the current practices and protocols for immigration to safeguard our nation. Stances against particular populations blind us to the needs of the individuals and the ways we can be of service and aid. To leave people in desperate situations will only compound the problems of those countries ravaged by war. Rev. Debbie Sperry, Pastor, Valencia UMC, Valencia, CA

Welcoming the stranger, housing the homeless, providing safety, care and hope for those in great need…these are foundational values and expectations for people and communities of faith. Refugee resettlement remains a foundational commitment of our country. Together let us open our hearts and our communities for those in need and know that in so doing we are not threatened but blessed. Reverend Cynthia S. Meyer, United Methodist, Edgerton UMC, Great Plains Conference

We must remember and call upon the better angels of our nature, especially when we are tempted by fear to close ourselves off from aching human need. These refugees present to us the human face of our fundamental, ineradicable solidarity with all people, which — though it often entails some measure of vulnerability — is one of God’s great gifts and vocations, particularly to those who have found solace in God’s own hospitality. They remind us that our greatest strength has never been found in higher walls and deadlier armaments, but in compassion and friendship. It is a noble calling to take responsibility for the protection of Americans through policy and security decisions; it is nobler still to do so with the wisdom that recognizes our neighbors’ fate and our own as inextricably linked. Dr. Rick Elgendy, Visiting Assistant Professor of Public Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC

“What good is a city upon a hill if it does not stand as a beacon of light in the midst of darkness? As refugees flee suffering and oppression in the Middle East, we are bound by the calling of scripture Scripture and guided by the mistakes of our past to open our doors to those who are seeking a better life for themselves and their children. To allow ourselves to be guided by fear and not by hope is to throw the light of our freedom and faith away. It is during difficult times like these that we will either become the people we aspire to be or lose the heart of our nation and faith. I believe that we there is much worth protecting, but if it does not include those who are most in need, then it is as useless as a dark city on a hill.” Graysen Pack, M.Div., Co-founder, The UP Project, The Church of God General Conference, Clarksville, TN

The United States likes to think of itself as the greatest country in the world. The moral question before us now is, of what will our greatness consist: fear or love? As an imperfect Christian, I myself often struggle to choose the latter. I am not surprised that we as a nation struggle as well. But I pray that we, both as individuals and as a country, will strive to act out of compassion, to dare to love in spite of the instinct to flee from pain and uncertainty. Adam Ployd, Assistant Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO

We can best protect America’s values and safety by maintaining strong, open-hearted, reciprocal relationships, internationally and also within America — between Americans of every ethnicity, creed, economic and legal status. We cannot eliminate physical risk to Americans through any government policy; we all risk damage and death every day, simply by being alive. We can, however, respond to one another as human beings with human dignity, and attempt to ease pain and hunger and want where we see them and according to our capacities. We have the ability now, right now, as Americans, to respond constructively to the horrors perpetrated by Daesh and by civil wars in the Middle East, by offering peace and safety to people desperately in need of it. We cannot — we dare not — close this door. Vera Broekhuysen, Candidate for Cantorial Ordination and Master of Jewish Education ’16, Hebrew College, Newton, MA

Last night I attended a silent interfaith prayer vigil in San Antonio and ran into my friend Bob Jaffer, who has served on the board of the interfaith education center at my church. Bob is an Ismaili Muslim, an immigrant, an entrepreneur, and a big supporter of the Aga Khan foundation which does development work with people in poverty all around the world. He told me a story about armed Baptists who showed up at a friend’s mosque in Irving Texas the day before, frightening members of the mosque. We hugged, and Bob (always the extrovert) found a Jewish person he knew and started up another conversation with a big smile. Bob died unexpectedly this morning. The U.S. needs more, not fewer, people like Bob. We protect America’s values by receiving with gratitude the gifts and energy and friendship he brought us. Rev. Kelly Allen, Pastor, University Presbyterian Church, Chair, Interfaith Welcome Coalition of San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

When we think about accepting and welcoming refugees, we might consider something very basic, yet undeniably true: when we help and “rescue” refugees, they help and rescue us. My family hosted a Central American refugee and her eight-year-old son for several months. People were constantly praising us for our generosity, but they shouldn’t have. In hosting and welcoming refugees I learned the true meaning of Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Rev. Traci Smith, Pastor, Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio, TX

In the wake of the cultural debate and divide over the American response to the refugee crisis, American Christians would be wise to recall that the most prevalent command throughout the scriptures is “Do not be afraid”, spoken from God to God’s people. Christian are a people of a sure and certain hope and we confess that Light will always drive out darkness. As such, Christians have an obligation to prayerfully respond rather than emotionally react to the rhetoric of fear and suspicion that is sweeping social media and cable news punditry. The charge to my congregation has been to allow our compassion to drive out fear rather than our fear driving out our compassion. If we allow the best of our values — courage in the face of adversity and compassion in the wake of suffering — to be overrun by our fear and suspicion of refugees, it won’t matter how “secure” we make ourselves — We won’t have much left in our cultural fabric that’s worth protecting. Rev. Nathan Carden, United Methodist Pastor, Birmingham, AL

To protect our values and safety we have to ask, which voices are we listening to? Voices of fear that blame the other, voices of anger that call for retributive justice, voices of hope that implore peace, or voices of scripture that ask followers of Jesus Christ to be in relationship with those unwelcome. Let us listen to the voice of the one who talked with an outcast at a well, hugged the unclean of the town, and ate meals with zealots and ragamuffins; because the way of peace is in a community of difference. Rev. Eric Strader, Senior Pastor, Christ Church Colorado

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We must not give fear and anger the space to cloud our better judgement. If so, we start to lose the battle for peace in ourselves, in our communities, and in our world. We as Americans have suffered enough trauma to know what pain feels like, to be frustrated, and to be scared. But our greatest characteristic is our strength. Now we must help our brothers and sisters who are suffering and need help. We are taught to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we turn them away, we then allow hate to direct our path and that is a violation of our moral responsibility to help those in need. We the American people are joining the fight for peace; we will not settle for anything less. Mavis Britwum, Program Assistant for Mass Incarceration & Income Inequality, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington, DC

A core message of Jewish tradition, maybe even the core message, is that we are all created in the image of God. This insight makes a claim on us, demanding that we honor and protect the Divine manifestation in ourselves and each other. To neglect or abandon the self or our fellow human being, is a violation, no a desecration, of the Divine. For God’s sake, which is to say for the sake of each person, we have an imperative to give refuge to the people of Syria who are victims of the negation of this principle. This imperative should only heightened by our own personal or communal experiences of victimhood and culpability in rejecting our responsibility to help when we could. Rabbi Daniel Klein , Director of Admissions, Rabbinical School Director of Student Life, Hebrew College, Newton Centre, MA

When it comes to having the courage to overcome fear, the generosity to share our blessings, and the compassion to help the dispossessed, Christians remember that Jesus was once a refugee who had to flee a cruel tyrant in his own homeland. Americans remember that except for the people who were already here and the people who were forced to come, the great majority of us are descendants of refugees who came here for a better life by rejecting the religious wars they left behind. The terrorists win if our fear makes us forget our history and abandon our values. Our leaders fail us if they say we must choose between security and compassion, between one religion or another. Whether your symbol is the Statue of Liberty or the Cross, welcoming the stranger in distress is not an option, but an essential. The Rev. Dr. Larry Bethune, Senior Pastor, University Baptist Church, Austin, TX

The call to follow Christ in the world is absolute. Following Christ does not mean that everyone needs to be a Christian. It means that we are to do as Jesus did. Welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and care for widows and orphans. These core values are deeply embedded in Christianity, but they are also the core values of the United States and many faith traditions. Welcoming and embracing Syrian refugees is a profound act of solidarity and faith that defies the fear that ISIS seeks to generate around the world. Rev. Dr. Rebecca Todd Peters, Professor of Religious Studies, Elon University

Remembering the words of Kennedy, “ask what you can do for your country.” Instead of saying we, as a country, should take in refugees; lets all shift to “I will take” in a refugee family. If you want our country to be safe, it all starts with welcoming in the stranger and forming a relationship. Place my name and my home at the top of the refugee resettlement list. Rev. J. Drew Johnson, Upper School Service Learning, Teacher of Religion and Philosophy, St. Catherine’s School, Richmond, VA

“Refugees are welcome here!” Rabbi Dr. Michael J. Shire, Chief Academic Officer, Dean and Professor of Jewish Education, Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education and Jewish Studies, Hebrew College, Newton Centre, MA

— The best way to protect America’s safety is to ensure that we actually live by the values which we profess. We claim to value freedom of religion and liberty of speech, but lately there is pressure to look suspiciously on those who practice the Islamic faith and to restrict their activities. We claim to value democracy and open participation of citizens in their own government, but increasingly, political discourse is dominated by the wealthy and well connected. We claim to value equality of opportunity, but it is increasingly clear that minorities have to work harder and overcome more obstacles in order to find prosperity in our America. And we claim to be a refuge for the world’s “huddled masses” and “homeless,” according to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, yet we erect fences, walls, and barriers, against some of the world’s most vulnerable and desperate people, particularly those from Syria. Rev. Dr. Wes Magruder, Board Chair, Refugee Services of Texas; Senior Pastor, Kessler Park UMC, Dallas, TX

Torture by the Assad regime in Syria, stretching back to the Arab spring uprisings, has been well documented and reported by the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Daily Mail and most notably, Human Rights Watch. A 2013 Human Rights Watch inspection of Syrian State Security and Military cells in a prison overtaken by the opposition uncovered rudimentary torture devices, as well as a list of all graduates of Raqqa college. And we are all too familiar with what ISIS is doing inside Syria. The full story of why people are fleeing Syria is intimately connected to the threat that anyone can be tortured or killed at any time for any reason. Given the horrific context of death and torture that lurks behind each and every Syrian refugee, it is unimaginable, and a stain on the conscience and global reputation of this nation, that instead of welcoming these refugees to a safe haven with open arms, this U.S. Congress is invoking a false notion of security to slam the door on them. The only values that will make us safe in the world are the values of hope and possibility that embrace humanity and take a clear stand against torture and bigotry. Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Washington, DC

We are called at least 36 times in the Torah to care for the ‘stranger’ living among us and to imagine what it must have been like for our ancestors with no freedoms or hope in the Land of Egypt. With these imperatives in mind, how can we now close our minds, hearts, and borders to refugees? How can we single out religious and ethnic communities? How can we use the pretense of fear to limit personal freedoms and rights? Our tradition cries out for us to live out our values, especially at this time of uncertainty and suffering. Rabbi Joshua M. Z. Stanton, Assistant Rabbi, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, NJ

Did you miss the first part of our series? Read other voices of faith here.

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