I hope you all have a Happy 4th of July!! Due to the holiday this week, our blog will be brief. I considered taking the week off but there’s some news to pass on that pre-empts the holiday for me.
Fear never brings out the best in us. It blurs our better judgment and encourages actions that are more self-centered than self-giving. We have seen the effects of fear this week in the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold parts of the President’s ban on travel and refugee resettlement. The thinking goes like this: “If we keep those who are not like us out of our country, we’ll be safe” – except I don’t think it works that way. Life has risks which have been felt by those in other countries for a long time. When I hear calls for tighter vetting, I can’t help but wonder if our legislators and justices are even aware of what the current vetting process is. This decision by the Supreme Court sacrifices the lives of others for a misperception of safety for us.
Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) sent an email on Monday when the Supreme Court decision became public:
Today the Supreme Court released its decision on the ‘travel ban’ Executive Order (EO). In short, it consolidated the two cases about the EO that were heard in the Fourth and Ninth Circuit Courts and agreed to hear oral arguments on the case in October. It also issued a stay on the injunction of both cases, which means that certain parts of the ban will now go into effect.
Even while we wait to learn the specifics about what this means for the families that we – along with our local affiliate partners, communities, churches, and volunteers – were planning to welcome, we must redouble our efforts to be voices of welcome and support for our refugee brothers and sisters, at home and abroad.
Here are three things you can do today to help:
1. Stand To Support Refugees: Make a donation to our Stand to Support Refugees campaign, and plan to host a Stand to Support Refugees Sunday at your church.
2. Materials, including prayers and worship resources, are available here.
3. Love God, Love Neighbor: Plan to join us for a future Love God, Love Neighbor experience, where we train Episcopalians to be advocates, allies, and ambassadors for the work of refugee resettlement and welcome. Click here to sign up today to be the first to receive announcements about training dates and locations.
4. Support your nearest local affiliate: Reach out to your nearest Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliate, or the affiliate of another national resettlement agency, to learn how you can help. Need help locating an office? Contact Allison Duvall, EMM Manager for Church Relations & Engagement (firstname.lastname@example.org). We thank you for being partners, friends, and advocates in this ministry of refugee resettlement. Thank you for standing with Episcopal Migration Ministries and with refugees.
I also received an email from the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries:
We learned this morning that the Supreme Court has decided to allow portions of the president’s executive order(s) regarding admission of foreign nationals in general, and refugees specifically, to move forward until a full hearing and ruling in the fall. While we await an official “sorting” of how today’s events will be implemented practically, in the coming days one thing we know for sure is that many who would have found safety, rest, and a chance for life in this country will now be left to fend for themselves in conditions that are far from hopeful.
Others have written, and will write more I am sure, on the legalities and logistics of this action. I, myself, may well write or comment about those things in the coming days. But for now I choose to reflect as a person of faith who is looking for a way forward through these times.
I find myself drawn to one particular phrase in the Court’s pronouncement – that restricting admissions to those with close family or professional ties to the US and excluding all others “does not burden any American party”. While that may or may not be true from a legal standpoint, it most certainly is not true from where this American, this Christian, sits and reflects. I feel the burden tremendously, as our country says to those who are “other” that their suffering is less important than is mine. That seems to me to be decidedly un-Christ-like.
As a follower of Jesus, I hear his command to love and care for the poor, the stranger, and the persecuted. I see his example of suffering for the sake of others, even the laying down his life, to be a call for helping and not for fearful isolationism. I read Matthew 25, and feel led to see the face of God in all people. I read Luke 16, and fear that while I am one who has been graced to live in this country of freedom and wealth I am refusing nonetheless to share that grace with others. I read John 11, and see that Jesus weeps not only at his own pain but at the hurt of others as well and cannot help but see the redemptive power of that act.
Even if the government ultimately decides that we “may” discriminate against a person, the question for me is “should we?”
We cannot remain silent if we are to demonstrate that we follow Jesus and love our neighbor – all our neighbors. On the 4th of July, we celebrate the freedoms that our nation has been proud to proclaim to the rest of the world and yet we are denying freedom to others to find safety and a home in our country. I am reminded of the apostle John’s words: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (I John 4:18a).
Let us pray:
God our Creator: We ask for your loving presence and for your peace to be with refugees in our local communities and around the world. Be with all who are in fear. Be with those whose lives and livelihoods are under threat, and whose religious freedoms are being compromised. Be with us as we strive to enact your will in our welcome and support of refugees. Be with those in positions of leadership, that their decisions may bend toward peace and not division, and that they might realize the power they hold to do justice. Give us all strength and courage. Equip and empower us to be witnesses to your love – as advocates and as servants, as ministers of welcome and bearers of hope, especially for those seeking refuge. In your Holy name we pray. Amen. (Shared by the Refugee Community Center at the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, Allentown, Diocese of Bethlehem)
~The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council