Welcoming Immigrants: A Moral, Gospel Imperative

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On February 3, 2017, a federal judge in Seattle put a nationwide block on President Donald Trump’s executive order effecting refugees and immigrants. The executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump — which bars Syrian refugees indefinitely, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, and halts immigration from seven majority Muslim countries for three months — is a direct contradiction to the biblical call to welcome the stranger.

The President’s action unjustly targets and stereotypes a specific religious group — those who practice Islam — and lends to a growing national wave of hatred and mistrust of Muslims. Mr. Trump’s order paints an entire religious group — most of whom are peaceful and contributing members of society — as the primary purveyors of terrorist and violence in the United States and around the world.

Mr. Trump has denied that this ban is aimed at Muslims but the results tell a different story. And religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faith traditions have joined together to denounce the bias, racism, and religious persecution inherent in this order. As the racial/cultural justice and reconciliation agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Commission on Religion and Race joins our partners in the worldwide religious community in opposing Mr. Trump’s action.

Holy Scripture, which guides and undergirds our individual and corporate Christian faith, speaks frequently about how believers are to receive and treat those who are immigrants. In the Old Testament alone, the Hebrew word ger — the closest word to our concept of an immigrant — appears more than 90 times.

Deuteronomy 10 asserts, “The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants…”

The General Commission on Religion and Race has long held that Christians are called to champion and welcome the stranger. Even those who don’t share our beliefs are God’s human creations, worthy of the love of God. And God calls us to welcome those who may feel to us as “other.” Biblical stories are rife with themes of immigrants fleeing oppression and seeking refuge in other lands: Moses and Aaron, Ruth and Naomi, and Jesus himself, whose family had to flee as immigrants to Egypt. Over and over, God returns to the theme of loving neighbor, welcoming and rescuing newcomers, and giving succor to those who seek freedom in foreign lands.

This is more than a “nice” thing to do; welcoming immigrants is a moral, Gospel imperative.
Therefore, we call on United Methodist Christians to:

  • Pray for Syrians and other Muslim Americans affected by this ban;
  • Connect with Muslims in your communities to learn ways to foster mutual understanding;
  • Contact your local, state and national legislative representatives to express your concerns;
  • Join with community groups in organizing peaceful vigils and letter-writing campaigns;
  • Organize Bible studies and church school classes to “Speaking Out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in the United States,” page 377 in the United Methodist Book of Resolutions, 2016.
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GCORR is building the capacity of The United Methodist Church to be contextually relevant and to reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.