Bishops on Syrian Refugee Crisis

The Right Reverend Eugene T. Sutton, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland shared this message on his Facebook page today: Grateful for these important words from our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: “In times like this fear is real. And I share that fear with you. Our instinct tells us to be afraid. The fight-or-flight mentality takes hold. At the present moment, many across our Church and our world are grasped by fear in response to the terrorist attacks that unfolded in Paris last Friday. These fears are not unfounded. We can and should support law enforcement officials who are working hard and at great risk to protect us from crime and keep us safe. And yet, especially when we feel legitimate fear, our faith reminds us ‘Be not afraid.’ The larger truth is that our ultimate security comes from God in Christ.”
Please note the link at the bottom of Bishop Curry’s statement to two live webinars, one tomorrow and next Monday, from Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry addresses Syrian refugee crisis: ‘Be not afraid!’

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry addresses the current Syrian refugee crisis:

“Be not afraid!”

Often in the gospels, fear grips the people of God, and time and again, either the angels, or Our Lord himself, respond with the same words of comfort: “Be not afraid.”

In times like this fear is real.   And I share that fear with you.  Our instinct tells us to be afraid. The fight-or-flight mentality takes hold.  At the present moment, many across our Church and our world are grasped by fear in response to the terrorist attacks that unfolded in Paris last Friday.  These fears are not unfounded.  We can and should support law enforcement officials who are working hard and at great risk to protect us from crime and keep us safe.   And yet, especially when we feel legitimate fear, our faith reminds us “Be not afraid.”  The larger truth is that our ultimate security comes from God in Christ.

In the Book of Leviticus, God says to the people of Israel that, “the foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  Accordingly, we welcome the stranger.  We love our neighbor.  The Episcopal Church has long been committed to resettling refugees in our own communities fleeing violence and persecution.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries service, works with dioceses and congregations, and the United States government, to settle refugees in communities across this great country.  The Episcopal Church has been engaged in this ministry for more than 75 years.  We will not let the nightmare this world often is keep us from carrying out the words of Jesus who told us to be a neighbor to those in need.

Refugees from places like Syria seek to escape the precise same ideological and religious extremism that gave birth to the attacks in Paris.  They seek entry into our communities because their lives are imprisoned by daily fear for their existence.   Just as Jesus bids us not to be afraid, we must, in turn, pass those words of comfort to those who turn to us for help.

But Jesus calls us to go even further: not just to love our neighbors and our kin, but to love our enemies.  This is particularly difficult when we are afraid.    But even in the midst of our fear we stand on the solid ground of our faith and proclaim the faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  In practical terms, this may mean finding strength in prayer, or in our neighbors, or in our churches, or in acts of solidarity with others who live in fear.   This is the hope that casts out fear.

The fear is real.  So we pray.  We go to church.  We remember who we are in Jesus.   Our resurrection hope is larger than fear.   Let nothing keep us from that hope, that faith, that security in Gods dream for all of humanity.

“Be not afraid!”

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Resources
The following resources are offered for education and understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis.

• Episcopal Public Policy Network has posted an overview and a call to action here

• Two live webinars have been slated for November 19 and November 23.  Information is here.

ELCA presiding bishop encourages the support of refugee resettlement

11/18/2015 4:00:00 PM

            CHICAGO (ELCA) – In response to the terrorism around the world and people displaced from their homes and seeking refuge, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), issued a statement Nov. 18 to the 3.7 million member church. The full text of her statement follows:

“We are shocked and dismayed by the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, but also in Nigeria, Kenya, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Senseless acts of terror will maim and forever have an impact on innocent victims and their families. Our hearts and prayers go out to all whose lives have been shattered and are grieving the loss of loved ones. We know all too well the frightening memories of terrorist attacks in the U.S. and the uncertainties of possible future attacks.

“Yet, we Christians and all others of good will cannot let fear rule the day. Fear paralyzes, divides people, fosters distrust and clouds judgments.  We also stand shoulder to shoulder with people of faith who are firmly opposed to vengeful reprisals and prejudice. In particular, we are concerned for and committed to standing with our Muslim neighbors who are facing threats and acts of discrimination and hate by those who conflate Islam with terrorism.

“Even in the face of evil, we remain confident that the good news of Jesus Christ liberates us and gives us the freedom and courage to discover and boldly participate in what God is up to in this world. ‘The Gospel also frees us from fear to see others as brothers and sisters for whom Christ died and lives’ (ELCA Social Message on Terrorism, 2004).

“We are not naive about possible new threats of terrorism, but denying refuge to thousands of desperate people is not who we are as Christians, nor will it guarantee our security. The United States is a welcoming country with a religiously diverse society, and our refugee resettlement program should continue to reflect this. We must redouble our efforts to work for a more secure world – one with less hate and more understanding. Doing less than that only feeds into the terrorist propaganda.

“The thousands of courageous Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland go through a rigorous security screening involving the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense and multiple intelligence agencies. Refugees are the most scrutinized and screened individuals to enter the U.S. Intensive security screening by the government of all refugees prior to admission to the U.S. is and should continue to be a detailed and thorough process.

“Lutherans have a long history in this country of settling refugees, including those fleeing from dangerous situations like the war in Syria. We draw on both biblical witness as well as the best of our nation’s traditions as a refuge and haven for the persecuted and destitute.  We support ‘a generous policy of welcome for refugees and immigrants’ and ‘will advocate for just immigration policies, in visa regulations and in admitting and protecting refugees. We will work for policies that cause neither undue repercussions within immigrant communities nor bias against them’ (ELCA Social Message on Immigration, 1997).

“Currently, more than 25 governors are opposed to allowing Syrian refugees into their states. While the states do not have the legal authority to prevent resettlement, it is distressing that these governments could make refugee resettlement for Syrians and those from other war-torn areas more difficult. Of the Syrian refugees being referred by the U.N. for settlement, more than half are children and a significant number are women or elderly men.

“I urge the members of our church to call upon our elected officials to be leaders in speaking up for refugees already persecuted and traumatized and ensuring that our country continues to reflect the principles and values of a nation committed to freedom. The legacy of our welcome to refugees is that our economy, social fabric, communities and nation as a whole are stronger. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has developed many resources on this topic for your congregations. You can also contact your elected officials through the ELCA Advocacy action alert: http://support.elca.org/site/R?i=TYxDvJpE0jLnKipA6XST1w.

“Let us recommit ourselves to sharing encouragement to those persecuted as we seek to be a disturbing, reconciling, serving and deliberating presence in God’s world. This will demand difficult, courageous work from each of us. ‘As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace’ (Ephesians 6:15).”

The text of statement is available at http://www.elca.org/en/Resources/Presiding-Bishop-Messages.

Statement from Bishop Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:2).

On Tuesday, Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, joined other governors across the country in asking the Federal government to stop sending refugees from Syria to Maryland. This action came, of course, in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last week.

All of us are deeply saddened by what happened in Paris and indeed by all terrorist activity around the world. We pray for the victims of these heinous crimes, and we pray for and support all those who work very hard every day to keep us safe. Refugees to our country – about 70,000 are accepted each year – are the most vetted and screened group of people in the country. Our government has a responsibility to make sure that terrorists with evil intentions do not hide among the very people that are fleeing their violent actions.

In the midst of our sadness and anger about last week’s attacks, it is important, I think, to keep a balanced perspective and to avoid knee-jerk reactions. We know what it looks like when we act out of fear: the turning back of Jewish refugees from Germany and the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II are but two examples of what the politics of fear can do!

Lutherans have a long history of helping in the resettlement of refugees. Our own Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), headquartered in our synod, is one of the most prominent agencies working with the government. Its president, Linda Hartke, has written on the current crisis and has provided a very helpful fact sheet that can inform the current debate. Another resource is the statement made yesterday by our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.

Please join me in prayers for peace and actions for justice during these difficult days.

Peace & Blessings,

Bishop Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane
Delaware-Maryland Synod, ELCA