Religious Leaders Send Letter to Congress Urging Support for Syrian Refugees

December 3, 2015

WASHINGTON – In response to H.R. 4038, the so-called “American Security Against Foreign Enemies” (SAFE) Act and rumors that a must-pass appropriations bill may include policy riders to stop the resettlement of refugees from Iraq and Syria, more than 152 bishops, presidents of denominations and CEOs of faith-based organizations, as well as over 450 local pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders, released a letter to all Members of Congress. The letter states opposition to any legislation that would limit resettlement based on religion or nationality and calls for Members of Congress to act with compassion and welcome towards all refugees.

With more than 60 million people displaced worldwide including more than 4 million Syrian refugees, faith leaders wrote the letter to urge the United States to continue its legacy of leadership in refugee resettlement and publicly denounce any efforts to limit resettlement based on religious beliefs or country of origin.

As a member of Refugee Council USA, Church World Service helped garner signatures for the letter from its 37 member communions and partners across various faith traditions, continuing its efforts to urge the United States to serve as a global leader in refugee resettlement.

Read statements from select faith leaders below. To view the full list of faith leaders who support the letter, please visit this link.

“Remembering that our Lord was once a refugee, we are called to welcome the stranger. We recognize that protection, hospitality and respect for the stranger are deeply rooted in all major faiths. I urge us all to pray for and with these sisters and brothers in peril, and I call members of Congress to approve moral, just policies for refugees seeking protection regardless of faith tradition.”
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

“Our faith compels us to respond with compassion to all those fleeing violence and persecution, regardless of their faith. We do so precisely because we are followers of Jesus, and we believe in the biblical teaching that each person is made in the Image of God and has inherent dignity and worth. Jesus makes explicitly clear in his parable of the Good Samaritan that our “neighbor,” whom we are commanded to love, cannot be narrowly defined to include only those of our own religious or ethnic group.”
Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief

“I spent the Jewish holiday of Sukkot with seven Muslim Syrian refugee families resettled by HIAS, all of whom desperately needed resettlement. All of them fled Syria after their homes and livelihoods were completely destroyed, and they are grateful today for the opportunity to start new lives in safety. To keep families like these from finding safety here just because of where they come from or how they worship would be a profound betrayal of American values. The torah calls us to welcome the stranger, not once but thirty six times. At HIAS, we’ve heard from Jews across the country, including more than 1,000 rabbis, who want Congress to keep this critical program open to all those who need it.”
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS

“Welcoming refugees who are our world’s most vulnerable to this land of the free should never require a religious litmus test to step onto our shores. Refugees are fleeing extreme violence and are the most heavily screened group of people entering the United States. We must counter discriminatory legislation and language at every turn—allowing us to offer protection to Syrian refugees. As Pope Francis has said, ‘what are we waiting for?’”
Rev. Ron Degges, President of Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

“The United Church of Christ General Synod has offered strong public witness in support of extending an extravagant welcome to Syrian refugees who are fleeing a space of terrible violence and persecution. Because our church recognizes the value of diverse communities, we work to stop discrimination against others on the basis of their faith background. In this time of dire need, we have a moral responsibility to receive Syrian refugees and to ensure that no provisions that would slow resettlement to a halt are included in the funding bill.”
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of United Church of Christ

“As members and leaders of diverse faith communities, our beliefs call us to welcome the stranger, love our neighbor and accompany the vulnerable. As Americans, we hold the freedom of religion and respect for all religions as one of the utmost importance. We must extend welcome to refugees fleeing violence and persecution, regardless of their religious backgrounds. To do otherwise would be a direct contradiction of our values as people of faith and as Americans.”
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service

“In the face of the overwhelming human crisis in Syria, we must reach into the deep reservoirs of compassion faith instills within us to respond with loving mercy to families fleeing for their lives. Nothing less is worthy of our national heritage as a refuge for all. Nothing less is acceptable in the face of our moral responsibility.”
Rev. Roy Medley, General Secretary of American Baptist Churches, USA

“As Christians, we must speak clearly and loudly: we are called to welcome the stranger, protect the vulnerable, and love fearlessly. We are called to respond with love even amidst our fear. The world is still facing the largest refugee crisis in recorded history. We must continue to have compassion for the vulnerable individuals fleeing conflict in Syria. The Christian Reformed Church in North America has been actively involved in the work of refugee resettlement since 1965 and views refugees as blessings to our communities.”
Dr. Steven Timmermans, Executive Director at Christian Reformed Church in North America

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