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Global Anglican Church Leaders wade in on US immigration row

Global Anglican Church Leaders wade in on US immigration row

By David W. Virtue, DD
January 31, 2017

In an urgent message to Anglicans in North America, ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach called for prayer for immigrants, refugees and for government leaders as they make decisions about how to deal with a global problem where answers are few and problems are many.

"As a province that spans Canada, the United States, and Mexico we face unique challenges on issues affecting refugees and immigration. I am thankful for our congregations that are a part of the Anglican Immigrant Initiative. They have taken the lead in caring for those in our communities who are refugees and immigrants, showing the love of Christ to the most vulnerable."

The Archbishop called on Anglicans to make a special effort to reach out to refugees and immigrants in their local communities. "In these divisive times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate a compassion that builds bridges, and overcomes fear.

"In our province we also have lawmakers who face a different, but related set of challenging moral issues. As public servants, they are called to carefully discern how best to respond to the global humanitarian need while also maintaining the appropriate role of government in protecting its citizens. There are no easy answers to how our nations should balance these priorities, and our leaders need your prayers."

The Archbishop of Egypt, the Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, said that he was saddened to hear about President Trump's executive order and said that "it will not contribute to the security of the United States in any way."

In a statement, Archbishop Mouneer said: "I appreciate the right of the government to protect the nation from terrorism, but this will not happen by preventing Muslims from coming to the country. The Oklahoma City bombing, we recall, was conducted by an American, not a Muslim.

"President Trump's policy is a naïve solution based on generalization and discrimination. The risk of terrorism should be dealt with by the security agencies on an individual basis and in cooperation with other nations. This decision will result in innocent people being barred entry, and refugees will suffer greatly.

"Under so much pressure in their home countries, refugees need a refuge. Much poorer nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt have been accommodating the thousands that the United States is turning away.

"This decision is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, which requires us to welcome the stranger and treat him well. Jesus Christ, we must remember, was once a refugee in Egypt."

Archbishop Anis went on to say that President Trump's decision to prioritize Christian refugee applications will not help. "Deep in my heart I do not want to see Christians leaving the place where Jesus was born, lived, and was crucified.

"The Middle East will not be the Middle East without Middle Eastern Christians. It will change, and in more than just demographics. The beautiful mosaic will suffer, as will the church's witness to Christ's love among all the peoples of the region."

Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, and a member of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC), said: "In seeking to protect individuals or a particular sector of a community, it is imperative that we do not alienate others, especially when it means denying the basic human rights and freedoms of those most vulnerable.

"As Christians following biblical teachings and traditions existing for millennia, we believe that God instructs us to provide refuge and hospitality to all humanity indiscriminately. He does not stop there in His instruction, but goes further to urge us to love all, even those who consider us their enemies.

"As a Church that frequently finds itself at the receiving end of lethal terrorist attacks, we understand far too well the need to protect communities and individuals. At the same time however, we must not do so in a way that compromises our integrity or goes against the humaneness with which we must address the vast majority of those who do not directly or indirectly advocate for, aspire to, or inflict harm on others."

A coalition of Christian organizations has also issued a statement expressing concern about the clamp-down. They have called on the US to uphold its long tradition of welcoming refugees and offering them international protection. In a joint statement, the World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, and the Lutheran World Federation said that faith called all Christians to love and welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced person -- "the other."

"These measures have been introduced in the name of protecting the nation from terrorists entering the US," they said. "However, we support the view that in practice this order serves to further harm those who are the very victims of terrorism, genocide, religious and gender-based persecution, and civil war.

"We affirm and insist that, as prescribed under international humanitarian and human rights law, all those in confirmed need of refuge and international protection have a right to receive it, regardless of their religious or ethnic identity. . . The world is currently experiencing the largest forced displacement crisis since World War II, and 86 per cent of the world's refugees are being hosted in developing countries.

"For the USA to more than halve its annual intake of refugees would not only severely affect people in urgent need of refuge, but also encourage other developed countries to participate in a further erosion of international protection for refugees."

A chorus of top Christians, Muslims, Jews and leaders of other faiths have denounced the plan, calling it contrary to their spiritual traditions and the country's values.

"This weekend proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history," Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, a top ally of Pope Francis, said on Sunday, expressing a sentiment widely echoed in churches, synagogues and mosques. "The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values."

Meanwhile, nearly 18,500 people have signed a statement promoted by a coalition of evangelical groups pledging to welcome refugees and urging elected officials to assist them.

Separately, a letter to Congress and Trump from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition has more than 2,000 signatures, including from the heads of several Jewish organizations and Protestant denominations who collectively represent millions of Americans.

Pope Francis weighed in and condemned the hypocrisy from Christians who are merciless to refugees and people of other faiths.

Addressing a gathering of a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany, Francis rebuked "the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions."

"This is not something I've read in books, but I see in the newspapers and on television every day," Pope Francis said.

"The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian," he said.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jenningis, President of the House of Deputies wrote to deputies Jan. 31 about how and why the Church ought to continue its support of refugees. She said, "Like many of you, in the last week I have watched the news from Washington D.C. unfold with increasing disbelief and growing fear for the most vulnerable among us. The new administration's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a suitable replacement, silence journalists and advocates, and distort our national conversation with lies disturb me as an American and a person of faith. I intend to resist.

I am particularly horrified by the ban on refugees signed by President Trump on Friday evening. It is quite simply an act of malice, particularly toward our Muslim sisters and brothers, and Christians must oppose it loudly and with strength. Right now, more than 65 million people are currently displaced by war, conflict and persecution--the largest number in recorded history. We have an urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need."


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