Reflecting on the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, the Catholic and Lutheran bishops of Minnesota issued an open letter encouraging Christians to adopt a welcoming attitude toward refugees.
“We are saddened that as Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ — who himself experienced life as a refugee when his family fled to Egypt — our nation may be creating even more hardships for vulnerable refugee families,” said an open letter from Minnesota’s Catholic bishops and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and therefore imbued with a sacred dignity we must respect and protect. This is especially true when it comes to the poor and vulnerable.”
The article ran in the Star Tribune’s Opinion Exchange Dec. 23, in preparation for National Migration Week, which is observed this year Jan. 5-11. This year’s theme is “Promoting a Church and a World for All.”
The religious leaders condemned an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in September, which limits refugee placement to areas where both state and local governments have provided written consent.
“The new order seems to unnecessarily politicize what has been a humanitarian program rooted in our nation’s long history of resettling families fleeing from life-threatening dangers,” the bishops said.
They voiced concern that the new rule will create additional obstacles for refugees, who already “have escaped terrible situations of persecution and violence, leaving [their] homes and livelihoods to face an uncertain future.”
“We fear the executive order will create further hardship for refugees by delaying the resolution of their cases, dividing extended families and placing additional strains on the resettlement system, the religious leaders said.
“We are also troubled by the decision to set a limit of 18,000 refugees in 2020, the lowest in 40 years,” they added. The 18,000 figure marks a 40% drop from the previous year’s ceiling of 30,000, which was already less than half of the 67,000 average annual refugee admissions before Trump took office.
While resettling refugees may pose challenges for a community, the Catholic and Lutheran leaders said, the Bible is clear about the Christian’s responsibility towards vulnerable people.
“The world is experiencing the largest displacement of persons in human history. Our nation’s refugee policy is one way to demonstrate our values by following a common moral exhortation in the Bible: to welcome the stranger in our midst,” they said.
They encouraged Christians to pray for immigrants and look for ways to welcome them into the community. They also called for dialogue between those with different opinions on handling refugee resettlement.
“Pray for refugees and voice your support for them to our elected leaders. Reflect on ways you or your church congregation can assist them and other newcomers and how we can together address the fears and misconceptions that are all too common in these situations,” they said.
“If you are challenged by the influx of refugees, we invite you to seek to encounter them, learn their stories and work to see them as God sees them - as sons and daughters.”
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington also issued a statement on Jan. 6 for National Migration Week. He said every Catholic family has an immigration story, whether recent or in the past, and emphasized humanity as one united family.
“This observance allows us to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants around the world, including immigrants, refugees, and victims and survivors of human trafficking,” he said.
“Christ calls us to live in solidarity with one another, setting aside our fears or apathy. Within our parishes, neighborhoods and this Diocese, we should seek to encounter all migrants as children of our loving God, serving them in love and compassion.”