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Bishop of Maine and Muslim scholar co-author essay on religion and refugees

Bishop of Maine and Muslim scholar co-author essay on religion and refugees

From the Bangor Daily News: The Rt Rev Stephen T. Lane and author Reza Jalali draw comparisons between the situation of Syrian refugees today and the plight of European Jews in 1938. In fact, a poster created in 1938 by the Diocese of Southern Ohio, above, forms the basis for today’s Episcopal Migration Ministries logo. From the op-ed:

In July 1938, representatives from 32 nations gathered in France for the Evian Conference to discuss the growing concern over hundreds of thousands of Jewish Germans and Austrians made stateless by the Nazi regime. With the exception of one nation, the small Caribbean country of the Dominican Republic, 31 countries, including the United States, proved unwilling to ease immigration restrictions. Instead they established a commission to study the problem. Four months later, the sound of the shattered glass of Kristallnacht awoke the world to the dire fate awaiting millions across Europe.

The decision made by American leaders at the Evian Conference reflected the fears of many Americans. In a country slowly emerging from the Great Depression, many feared that an influx of refugees would compete with them for jobs and overwhelm the new social programs designed to support the poor. As we watch a new wave of desperate refugees, the possibility that history may repeat itself is a grim and all too possible prospect….

We two hold to two historic religions, Islam and Christianity. Welcoming the stranger is at the core of each of the Abrahamic faiths. Mohammed, when persecuted in Mecca, leaves in search of safety to go to Medina in order to establish the young religion. In Genesis, Pharaoh gives the immigrant Israelite Joseph great responsibility and Joseph, in turn, saves Egypt from a terrible famine. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me …”

Based on these common values we call on all Mainers, from different faith traditions and across class and political divisions, to refuse to let fear dictate our actions and attitudes toward others and to welcome those who are displaced into our midst. The true character of a people is made known when they show compassion toward those whose voices are not heard.

Read the whole article here.

The Episcopal Public Policy Network encourages Episcopalians to contact Congress to voice their support for refugees.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are working on an “Omnibus” appropriations bill that will likely include provisions to stop, pause and defund the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. This funding bill is being drafted as a number of Governors are attempting to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4038, The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which would grind to a halt the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Send a message to your representatives through the EPPN advocacy page here.

Picture credit: Episcopal Migration Ministries/Diocese of Southern Ohio. Thanks to the Episcopal Diocese of Maine’s Canon for Communication and Advocacy for assistance in bringing this story.


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Paul Powers

Isn’t this a “both/and” situation? The Holy Family were refugees. Their flight into Egypt (and subsequent return) were in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Norman Hutchinson

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were fleeing their homeland and going to another country to escape death and persecution. If it is in the 1st. century, the 1930s, or today those fleeing their homes for the same reasons that the Holy Family did are refugees. Does all of the parsing of how a refugee is defined, or if those fleeing today are like the family of the scripture matter? Are those running not humans in need? Would Jesus’ advice to us be to aid them? I think it would. We get so caught up in definitions that we fail to see the face of Jesus and his earthly parents in the faces of today’s refugees. “If you have done it unto one of the least of these you have done it unto me.” What have we done?

David Streever

There are, apparently, some academics well-versed in the Wittgenstein ‘language games’.
There is no meaningless semantic they don’t rise to challenge; no individual word choice they don’t question.
Ultimately, they say they agree with you or I on matters of principle, but they choose to not make that comment until after they’ve moved words around for a while.

Prof Christopher Seitz

We can of course aid them and be better prepared to do so without curious analogies meant to act as warrants, one supposes. Better Christian warrants are readily to hand. Love your neighbor as yourself, just as Leviticus commands.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Where was the refuge wave of Jews to Egypt? I don’t remember that…

Jesus and the Holy Family repeated the descent to Egypt and safe return to recapitulate Israel’s life, so we might hear the judgment: ‘out of Egypt I called my son.’

Are you saying the waves of Muslim refugees are recapitulating something in accordance with their scriptures, and will rapidly be returning home? Surely not.

David Allen

Actually they weren’t referred to as Jews at that point in the past. And I didn’t mention a wave, they were Jacob/Israel, his sons and their families which fled to Egypt to escape the famine in Canaan.

Ann Fontaine

The refugees from Syria are not all Muslims. Re: The Holy Family as refugees — One or hundreds — all refugees. The Bible does not tell us how many took refuge in Egypt. It is only concerned with one family.

Prof Christopher Seitz

That was my point, so thank you for making it again. Yes, one family, and a quick return, in God’s providence. To fulfill the scriptures. A deep concern of Matthew’s Gospel.

I wasn’t saying ‘Muslim refugees’ only. I was responding to the phrase as used by Mr. Allen.

Blessed Advent.

Carolyn Peet

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were NOT refugees, and they were NOT homeless.
Doesn’t anybody read the Bible anymore?

David Allen

Doesn’t anybody read the Bible anymore?

Ironic question.

Ann Fontaine

When they went to Egypt they were refugees: Matthew 2:13-15

Anand Gnanadesikan

Umm.. yes. A refugee is

“a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

Which is exactly what Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to do to escape Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Don’t forget the significance the Gospel places on the flight to Egypt. Israel’s own king, Herod, becomes like Pharaoh, killing the first born. Israel’s First Family flees to Egypt, ironically reversing the Exodus. This take place to protect them from their own murderous ‘King’ such that when they return the Scriptures might be fulfilled: “out of Egypt I called my son.”

To turn this into a general refugee type could rob it of the very significance it holds as scriptural fulfillment of a very specific kind. That lies at the heart of the Gospel story and gives it its inner magnificence in God’s singular hands. Joyeux Noel.

David Allen

I’m not familiar with Bible stories of Pharaoh or Herod killing the first born. I’m familiar with the story of Pharaoh demanding that the Israelite midwives kill all newborn Israelite baby boys. I’m familiar with the story that the Angel of Death killed the first born of Egypt. And finally I’m familiar with the story that Herod had baby boys in Bethlehem up to two years of age killed.

I also don’t see a reverse of the Exodus, I see a repeat of going to Egypt for refuge, Israel from famine, Joseph’s family from sure infanticide.

Borrowing the plight of Joseph’s family to emphasize the plight of present day refugees robs the story of nothing in my opinion. If anything, seeing images of mothers and fathers clinging to their children as they flee the terror that is ISIS, only emphasizes all the more the terror that frightened Joseph & Mary as they sought refuge and hid those years in Egypt.

David Allen

I’m not sure what commentaries you read conflict with the actual scripture, but they wouldn’t be any I would trust. No where does either the Old or New Testament story claim that Pharaoh or Herod killed first borns.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Just basic commentary stuff, widely recognized. Have a look at Ray Brown on Birth of the Messiah.

Or, don’t. I doubt it matters.

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