Faith Leaders Support Refugee Resettlement in Texas
Letter from Faith Leaders to Governor Abbott and Texas State House and Senate Members
Dear Governor Abbott and Texas State House and Senate Members,
We write as leaders in national, state, and local faith communities to express our deep disappointment in the plans for the Texas state government to withdraw from administering the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which became effective recently. Likewise, we are strongly concerned about several bills introduced at the state legislature that would place undue burdens on refugee resettlement agencies and the communities they serve.
We are grateful for the more than 22 refugee resettlement offices in Texas. Most of these offices have specific faith roots, and all work consistently with multi-faith partners to ensure effective resettlement and integration into Texas communities. We take seriously our deep call to “welcome the stranger” and to show compassion for vulnerable populations facing persecution.
As diverse faith communities, we have been proud to assist together in the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of refugees around the United States since the end of World War II. Our refugee neighbors have demonstrated faith values of resilience, determination, and hope. These are some of our strongest values as Americans and as Texans. Our relationships with refugee families have enriched our congregational communities, and have helped our members understand and provide healing in the face of many of the deepest conflicts around the world.
Throughout our nation’s history, the public-private partnership of the U.S. refugee resettlement has served as an international model for welcome and an effective way for the vulnerable to find new hope. Additionally, it has helped the comfortable demonstrate welcome across boundaries and practice the virtue of hospitality. We can be both safe and welcoming of refugees. Indeed, in this time when one in every 113 people globally is an asylum seeker, internally displaced, or is a refugee, and where there are more refugees in the world than at any time in recorded history, we must re-double - not turn back from - our life-giving heritage of refugee resettlement.
Therefore, for the above reasons, we call upon you to re-commit your support for and participation in the U.S. resettlement program, and urge you to oppose any anti-refugee proposal. We look forward to continuing to assist with refugee resettlement in Texas. We urgently request you continue to offer welcome to refugees within our great state of Texas.
See the pdf with all the signers.
Faith Leader Statements
"St. John's has been supporting refugees for almost three years now. We do so for two main reasons. The first is that our faith teaches us that we are to be hospitable to all people, and that we are to care especially to those who are marginalized such as refugees. The second is that it is our mission to heal brokenness, and caring for refugees enables us to live into this mission by helping people whose homes have been torn apart by violence find the new and safe home all people deserve."
-The Rev. Dr. Matthew T. Seddon, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Austin
"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)
-Rev. Dr. William C. Poe, Central Presbyterian Church, Austin
"The God of the Bible speaks clearly that we all are our brother's and sister's keeper. There is no distinction made for national boundaries. All are children of God hence all are welcome. National security is an inauthentic excuse and an exercise of national idolatry."
-Rev. Dr. Don Longbottom, Designated Conference Minister, South Central Conference, UCC, Austin
"The heart of the Abrahamic faiths is love for neighbors - not just the literal person next door, but love, care and protection especially for the most vulnerable among us. Love for the stranger and for refugees is actually mentioned more times in the Hebrew Bible - 33 times - than love of neighbor. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40). Love for neighbor and for the sojourner are not optional. These are values central to our faith tradition and they are the very values that are currently reflected in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program."
-Rev. Dr. John Elford, University United Methodist Church, Austin
"Adam and Eve were the first refugees on Earth and so was Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (peace be upon them)."
-Imam Mohamed-Umer Esmail, Austin
"If there is any place on Planet Earth that ought to be a haven for persons fleeing oppression, America is it. We are founded on a belief that all persons have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we are going to put this belief into practice, then we need fewer border walls and more open hearts."
-Pastor Landon Shultz, PhD, Bluebonnet Hills Christian Church, Austin
"I support refugees because it is a human right to migrate. We all deserve a future with hope."
-Abigail Herrera, Reverend, Servant Church United Methodist, Austin
"Most of us have not experienced the conditions that would compel us to leave our homes in search of safety, yet we proclaim with pride that our nation is a nation of immigrants. The irony is not lost on all those who have compassion for refugees and immigrants."
-Bob Michael, Advocates for Justice & Peace, Carrollton
"As Lutheran Christians we confess that caring for our neighbor's needs is part of our discipleship and following of Jesus Christ. We fully support the work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, oppose actions that create obstacles to refugees seeking shelter, and pledge to work for peace and justice in all the world." - Bishop Erik K. J. Gronberg, Northern Texas - Northern Louisiana Synod, ELCA, Dallas
“Judaism repeatedly stresses that it is our obligation to support those without power: the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. When refugees have to go through the "highest degree of security screening and background checks for any category of traveler to the United States," (act Sheet, USCIS, Refugee Security Screening, Dec. 3, 2015), it makes sense to both Jewish and American sensibilities to provide this much needed support.” - Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville
"It is a sign of faith in Islam to help the oppressed regardless of race, religion, color, and language. God also says in the Qur’an, 'O you who have believed, stand firm for God as witnesses to justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear God; indeed, God is acquainted with what you do. (Holy Qur’an - Chapter 5, Verse 8). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said, “Almighty God said, “O My true servants, I have made oppression unlawful for myself and I have made it unlawful among you, so do not oppress one another.' (Authentic tradition of Prophet Muhammad). The refugees are truly oppressed and we stand in justice with them to demonstrate our faith."
-Riyaz Lareef, Board Member and Director of Outreach, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Dallas
"In July of 2007, one of my parishioners saw a family of six in sweatshirts leaving Refugee Services of Texas which was housed in the old parsonage on the property of Grace United Methodist Church. Trying to hand out government lunches with no one coming to partake, Dolena had boxes of excess food she didn't know what to do with. She offered it to this family from the refugee camps of Tanzania. But that wasn't enough for Dolena. She felt compelled to check in on the family. And thus began a fabulous influx of families from Burundi and Rwanda. Our church has never been the same since. Our eyes were opened to the desperate needs of refugees trying to figure out our governmental systems. And our mission was set before us."
-Rev. Dr. Diana Brown Holbert, retired clergy at Grace United Methodist Church, Dallas
"I believe that our communities are best when safety starts with our welcome. We are called to welcome those who are estranged from that kind of safety. All our cities have the opportunity to welcome the estranged and the stranger."
-Rev. Dr. Andy Stoker, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Dallas
"I encourage anyone who has doubts about the role the United States and the State of Texas should play in refugee resettlement to spend half an hour speaking with a resettled refugee. Learn their story, learn how they were inspired by our country and its democratic values. It would be hard not to agree, after this conversation that our communities must be engaged in helping our brothers and sisters in their hour of need."
-Joel Schwitzer, Regional Director, American Jewish Committee, Dallas
"As a minister in the Christian tradition, my faith stirs me to support refugees and refugee resettlement. Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35), and gave love of neighbor as one of the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:39). The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) teaches that all people of all races and cultures are our neighbors. I claim my calling to make reality the gospel vision of inclusive love and justice without boundaries."
-Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Co-Chair, Equity for Women in the Church & Co-Leader New Wineskins Community, Dallas
"Having come to this country as a refugee, escaping anti-Semitism in Ukraine, I know first-hand the commitment and loyalty that new Americans feel for this country. As a refugee, I do not take for granted the freedoms and the opportunities that I am able to enjoy in this country. And, as a refugee, I also do not take for granted the responsibility that I feel for those less-fortunate than me, especially those in harm's way who are hoping to escape persecution, danger, and war."
-Cantor Vicky Glikin, Temple Emanu-El, Dallas
"Do not oppress a stranger; you yourselves know how it feels to be a stranger, because you were strangers in the land Egypt." This verse from the book of Exodus reminds us of the Divine responsibility we have to care for and welcome those to our communities who are new, those who are different and those who are seeking safety and sanctuary. Their refugee story is my refugee story and to welcome them is to welcome the presence of the Holy One. We can and should do no less."
-Rabbi Andrew M. Paley, Temple Shalom, Dallas
"As a child my church in the late 1960s provided support to refugees and since I have been in seminary, then had my own ministries, I have had the privilege to work with refugees from El Salvador, Africa, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Middle East. These families have become our family in our congregations and personally. These are people who have suffered so much that they felt compelled to leave all that they love (including family) in order that they could live and not be destined to a sure death. They are not criminals or dangerous. Instead, they love the U.S. for its hospitality. They are hard workers, working 3 jobs to sustain themselves. My faith calls me to welcome the stranger and I have found that in the face of the stranger I have come to know God more deeply. Our shared humanity across so many cultural and language barriers shines forth. It has made our country stronger to have so many people from other countries come to know us, the U.S. citizens. I know, for I am a daughter of refugee and immigrant parents. We become loyal and good citizens, who are forever grateful to the U.S. hospitality."
-The Rev. Dr. Isabel N. Docampo, Perkins School of Theology/Southern Methodist University, Dallas
"I serve a church that is a ½ mile from the largest population of refugees in Dallas called Vickery Meadow. That is where I met 12 year old Amira. Amira is a refugee from Syria who makes good grades in math and wants to be a doctor. That is where I met Aomino. Aomino is a 27 year old woman who almost died from starvation as a refugee from Somalia. She is now in therapy because of what she went through and works at a local car wash. These two children of God are representative of most refugees. Refugees consist overwhelmingly of women and children forced to flee their homes because of persecution or violence. Welcoming refugees is not just a political issue it is about people’s lives. It is about welcoming those who are the most vulnerable in our world. It is about welcoming Amira. It is about welcoming Aamino. It is about welcoming Jesus Christ." -Brent Barry, Pastor/Head of Staff, NorthPark Presbyterian Church, Dallas
"I believe we are called by Christ to care for the stranger, the oppressed, and the outcast. Among these categories, refugees represent some of the most vulnerable people in our world today. Furthermore, we are all created in the image of God and as such have a shared humanity. Refugees are my brothers and sisters and the injustice they experience cannot be ignored. Therefore, I must respond to the plight of refugees not in spite of the violent nature of their country of origin, but because of it."
-Rev. Adam Young, Spring Valley UMC, Dallas
"I support Refugee resettlement first and foremost because it is the right and humane thing to do. These people had to leave their homes and belongings because of wars and instability in their home countries, and not of their own choice. Second, because throughout the history of this USA, Immigration and Refugee resettlement have been the life-line for new blood and new ideas that make our country what it is now. It is this continuous influx of new creativity, imagination, ethics of hard work, enthusiasm for making a better life for oneself and one’s family, coupled with the opportunity to achieve one's dreams, that will ensure the continued presence of the USA as a leader in Science, technology, innovation, medicine and the Arts. Without Immigration and refugee resettlement we wouldn’t have great Americans like Alfred Einstein, Madeline Albright, and Khalil Gubran, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dabaghi (all hailing from countries known as Syria early in the 20th century), Farouk AlBazz-Egypt, Anousheh Ansari-Iran ,among others."
-Hind Jarrah, PhD Executive Director. Texas Muslim Women's Foundation, Inc., Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex
"I support refugees because I believe in an America for all. I stand firm in the idea that all individuals are valuable, worthy of respect and love, and have a place in the world, regardless of their background. There is room for all of us at the table, and no wall is tall enough to divide us."
-Dr. Nelly Kaakaty, Vice President, American Muslim Professionals of Dallas, Dallas
“People of faith are called upon to love neighbor as self; to care for the "least of these,'" as doing so is caring for God's own son. Refugees are our neighbors. They have fled their homes, culture, and family in search of safety and peace. As Americans who value these things and as people of faith, we must provide for those who seek them in this country. To do less is to build an invisible wall that will serve to further divide us from the world. This division is the greater threat that incites the hatred and fear that causes others to want to destroy us. Let them know us by our love, rather than by our fear." - Rev. Helen P. DeLeon, Dickinson
“I, like so many American Jews, am haunted by the memory of Jews who were denied entry to this nation during the Holocaust. Many died who could have been saved. America is at its best when we welcome victims of hatred and brutality. Such refugees and their children become loyal citizens, making positive contributions to our nation. - Ralph Mecklenburger, Rabbi Emeritus, Beth-El Congregation, Fort Worth
"The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34."
-Rev. William T. Stanford, Ecumenical Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, Fort Worth
"I sign this letter with a heartfelt belief and desire that the human needs of refugees are never dismissed or compromised by blanket legislation or policies. Persons do not leave their homes, businesses, and places of worship unless they are in a state of intense desperation. Refugees must be recognized as humans first, needs responded to with compassion, and policies must be examined, planned, enacted through the lenses of human dignity."
-Rev. Dr. Charles L. Rolen, Interim Senior Minister, University Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Fort Worth
“As faith and human advocates, surely we all recognize that not only were most of our forefathers immigrants but were also among those seeking asylum and fleeing from persecution. It is the banner that greets anyone entering our shores from Lady Liberty herself. The earth is God's and we are only charged as caretakers. Who are we to refuse entry to land that belongs to God? It is God's blessings that have made this land so great. How can we turn against everything our revealed scriptures and teachers taught us regarding the traveler and the wayfarer? Thank you for your kind attention.” - Noor Saadeh, Muslim Co-Lead, Daughters of Abraham, Garland
"The reason behind my support for refugees is because America is the country of immigrants and refugees, the second reason I came thirteen years ago as refugee I do understand what it means to be a refugees and the struggles that we are facing to integrate to this new society , and the third I want to be able helping others to not undergoing the same mistakes and vain trials we put ourselves."
-Paul Wembolenga Senior Pastor Christ Is The Answer International Church, Houston
"Our congregation has a long history of supporting refugee/immigrant resettlement. The risks associated with not receiving refugees with love and deep hospitality are far greater than the risks associated with receiving persons in great need. When we refuse welcome and hospitality we risk our very souls and the soul of a nation we all love and respect."
-Dr. Michael Dunn, Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Houston
"As Lutheran Christians, we meet conflict, war, and persecution with God’s love. God's love transforms our hearts to welcome the sojourner, and transforms the lives of those fleeing horrifying danger. And once here, our new neighbors have proven themselves over many years to be beacons of hope and renewal in our communities. Our support of refugees must continue as long as we have faith in God and the power of God's love."
-Arthur Murphy, Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church, Houston
"Respecting the dignity of every human being is at the heart of Christian faith. We are never merely extensions of our national origin. We are worthy of care because we are God's, no matter where we are from."
-The Reverend Lisa Hunt, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Houston
"Within my tradition, the demand of scripture is clear. God calls us to welcome and to support refugees, and even to treat the alien as a citizen. For we, too, once were refugees. Proclaiming the gospel of a loving and welcoming God requires that I seek to love and welcome my neighbor, including those who are refugees."
-Rev. Matthew Hudman, Memorial Drive Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Houston
"As a Christian, I support refugees because the Bible mandates us to welcome the least of these, as unto Christ. Our faith compels us toward compassion, not fear. I support resettlement because refugees have legitimate needs, and our country has the resources to help them. The resilience of refugees is a constant inspiration to me."
-Cindy Wu, Mission Partner, Access ECC, Houston
“The Christian faith is easy to define but challenging to live: Love God, love everybody, love yourself. It's hard to watch "Christian" elected officials at the state and Federal level give reason after reason after reason of why they don't need to live this out. And make no mistake, that is exactly what they are doing - justifying unfaithfulness. I support compassionate welcome for all in need.” - Marty Troyer, Pastor, Houston Mennonite Church, Houston
"At the heart of the Christian faith is welcome of the stranger; those with power hearing the cries of those without. This is where Jesus was, is, and will always be. Welcoming refugees is simply the right thing to do."
-Aaron Dawson, Missions Minister, Monterey Church of Christ, Lubbock
"Jesus himself was a refugee and as an adult he welcomed those were foreigners and aliens. His response to the question "Who is my neighbor?" was the parable of the Good Samaritan."
-The Rev. Thomas C. Gibbons, St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church, Richardson
"Refugees are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is our biblical mandate to help those who cannot speak for themselves."
-Rev. Suzanne F. Isaacs, Executive Director, San Antonio Region Justice For Our Neighbors, San Antonio
"This mantra guides me: 'Never let what you cannot do, stop you from doing what you can.' The resettlement of refugees in Texas strengthens our compassion, broadens our culture, and enhances our reputation in the world. We can and therefore should help the refugee families within our reach rebuild their lives." - Ron Johns, Jr., Minister, Oak Ridge Church of Christ, Willow Park