|Photograph by SallyAnn Rogers|
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me . . .
– Emma Lazarus (1849-1885)
“The New Colossus”
Last week at church my pastor spoke about nourishing each other regardless of who we are or where we come from. I thought about this over the past week, a week filled with media reports about the current administration’s banning of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The Statue of Liberty, where the Lazarus sonnet appears on a bronze plaque, does not apply to only certain huddled masses, but to all refugees to these shores regardless of where they came from or what god they chose to worship.
In its self-professed infinite wisdom, the administration believes this travel ban would prevent “Islamic terrorists” from entering the country and doing harm to Americans. Strange that Saudi Arabia, the homeland of 15 of the 19 September 11 terrorists, is not on this list. It seems to me that the president is not so much interested in protecting Americans and those who reside in this country, since many affected by the ban are legal residents of the United States, and have been for year. He is more interested in protecting Christians, both here and abroad.
After ordering the ban, and during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on January 27, the president stated that persecuted Christians would be given priority over other refugees seeking to enter this country, adding that they have been "horribly treated." He freely admitted that others (I am assuming he means Muslims) are being persecuted in these countries covered by the ban – “they were chopping off the heads of everybody” - before he began offering up his alternative facts - “but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them." Where is the evidence for this? When has this country ever given priority to Muslim refugees over Christians? Please show me. And how can we equate legitimate refugees fleeing terrorism with those wishing to come to this country to perpetrate terrorism? Please, please show me! Where are the facts? Not the alterative facts, but the real facts?
So I thought back to last week’s lesson at church. Nourish others. OK, let me offer some food for thought. True Christians – and I like to think of myself as one – live their lives in the words of Christ. So consider what the Bible says about intolerance of others who do not necessarily share one’s beliefs. In the Gospel According to Luke, there is the story of Jesus visiting a Samaritan village on his way to Jerusalem. “But the people would not receive him. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them? But he turned and rebuked them. And they went to another village." (Luke 9: 53-56]
Jesus had to remind his disciples that he came not to destroy the lives of others, but to give them comfort and salvation. It was up to them whether they chose to listen.
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, in which he commented on the dietary habits of Christians, cautioned them not to offend the followers of other religions. "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offence to the Jews or to the Greeks [Gentiles] or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do . . . ." [1 Corinthians 10:31-33] Can a just society do anything but this?
And just as true Christians live their lives in the word of Christ, true Muslims honor the word of God/Allah through the message of the prophet Mohammed. Muslims are taught to treat Jews and Christians, described in the Qur’an as “the People of the Book,” with equal justice, and with love and compassion. In the 60th Surah - Surat al-Mumtahana - Verse 8, God speaks through Mohammed: “God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just.”
In the 5th Surah - Surat al-Ma’ida - Verse 48, God speaks again through Mohammed:
“We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.”
The values and teaching of the Qur’an hold a true Muslim responsible for treating all people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, kindly and justly. They are called upon to protect the innocent and those in need and live a just life "nor forget your portion in this world: but you do good, as God has been good to you, and do not seek mischief in the land. For God does not love those who do mischief." [28th Surah - Surat al-Qasas - Verse 77)
It turns out all of us - Christians and Muslims – have been taught the same lessons, and we want the same things in life. There is no reason to fear Muslims, or to be intolerant of their beliefs, simply because they have chosen a different path to God/Allah. I am happy to see Americans . . . Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists . . . it really doesn’t matter . . . standing up and marching here in Washington, and across America and the globe, speaking out as communities of the just against the myopic and xenophobic intolerance and fear-mongering of the new administration. While it tries to seal America away from the rest of the world, it is the duty of each of us to echo the final verse of Emma Lazarus’ sonnet. “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Let the light of truth shine through the darkness of hate and intolerance, and let the communities of the just have the final word.
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