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Texas Interfaith Leaders Protest State’s Withdrawal from Refugee Program

ID 11208403 © Sam D\'cruz | Dreamstime.com DR CONGO - NOV 2ND : Refugees cross from DR Congo into Uganda at the border village of Busanza in Kisoro district on 2nd November 2008

“What Limits Does Faith Place on Love?”

Updated with new faith leader statements.

Update: Watch the archived press conference on Youtube.

 Leaders of the interfaith organization Texas Impact today issued the following statement protesting the decision of state policymakers to withdraw from Texas’ longstanding participation in the federal Refugee Resettlement Program.

The State of Texas’ decision to withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program does not reflect the values of Texans. Texans are courageous, hospitable, and faithful. Texans should not tolerate this decision made on their behalf, which seeks to impede the process of meeting critical needs for some of the most beleaguered of God’s children.

The State’s decision will not end the resettlement of refugees in Texas. Instead, it will obstruct the delivery of life-sustaining support for the refugees already in Texas. It also will siphon precious nonprofit and faith-based resources intended for refugees into a crisis-driven effort to rebuild a system that was already working effectively and efficiently.

Finally, the State’s decision will not prevent Texas faith communities from aiding our sisters and brothers fleeing persecution in other parts of the world. Refugees come to Texas seeking shelter from religious intolerance, violence, and failed states. They have already experienced immeasurable hardships, rejection, death and deprivation. Refugees see Texas as a place of freedom and safety for themselves and their families. The State’s decision notwithstanding, we will continue to work to ensure that their faith in our state is well founded.


Additional responses from interfaith leaders across Texas:

Texas Impact President Rev. Dr. Whit Bodman

Texas Impact President Reverend Dr. Whit Bodman said, “Texas officials claim that Texas has already done more than its fair share in aiding refugees. What is a ‘fair share’ when it comes to healing the sick and caring for the sojourner? What limits does our faith place on love? In fact, Texans of faith place no limits on love, and we will continue to welcome refugees to our state in every way we can.”

ELCA Bishop Michael Rinehart

Houston-area Lutheran Bishop Michael Rinehart said, “I and other faith leaders are deeply disappointed that Texas is intending to withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program. With 65 million displaced people in the world, the highest on record since WWII, this is the worst possible time for Texas to go backwards. We are in a global refugee crisis. Texas has been a leader in refugee resettlement, resettling 62,000 refugees and 14,000 Cubans in the last 10 years, and these new neighbors have made Houston’s economy and community stronger. We have tremendous local, city and community support. Volunteers from all major faith groups are actively involved in welcoming refugees.” 

Interfaith Action of Central Texas

Texas Impact board member Simone Talma Flowers, Executive Director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, said, “As an organization that is a recipient of funds from ORR, we are making contingency plans right now about how this is going to affect our work with welcoming and teaching English As A Second Language to refugees. This decision will affect thousands of refugees already resettled here in Texas. This is definitely a humanitarian issue.”

Episcopal Bishops of Texas

The Episcopal bishops of Texas have issued a statement protesting the decision that states in part: "We urge our state leaders to reject fear-based policy making that is not worthy of our proud state and abandons families who have already gone through so much. That’s not who we are as Texans, and it does not reflect the very best Texas values. As Episcopal leaders we pledge to work toward a solution to the crisis that now faces Texas. Our prayers are with all those refugees who today are fearful and concerned for their future in Texas. We pray for our governor and for our elected leaders. We pray for the employees who will be tasked with very difficult decisions in the coming days. And, we pray that we may continue to uphold a spirit of peace, love and hospitality to all who come to Texas seeking a new home."

United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez

United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez, said, "Our Christian teaching and heritage affirm that no one is a foreigner to God and we are to welcome the stranger as a brother and sister in our midst. Likewise, as Americans, we celebrate our immigrant heritage as a core value toward a more perfect union by welcoming the gifts of all especially the persecuted of the earth."

United Methdoist Bishops of Texas

The United Methodist bishops of Texas have issued a statement that states in part: "As Christians and as Texans our values are grounded in respect and hospitality toward newcomers. Those values lead us to welcome refugees to our state. We recognize that these are difficult and complex times, but as Christians, we rely on Jesus Christ to overcome our fear of those who may be different."

Texas Rabbis

On September 21, 65 rabbis jointly sent the following letter in response to news that Governor Greg Abbott was seeking to withdraw the state of Texas from the U.S. Refugee Admissions program. Their statement says in part: "As Rabbis, we believe that every life is sacred, and every person is created in the image of God. Our biblical tradition teaches us to “welcome the stranger” with compassion, and to care for those in need. We strongly support refugee resettlement in our local communities, and we call on you to uphold the legacy of a country and state that welcomes refugees." 

Fort Worth Faith Leaders

On September 26, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published an opinion piece from eight Fort Worth faith leaders titled, "Gov. Abbott is wrong about refugee program." Their piece states in part: "In the face of violence, we will show moral courage and increase our welcome for individuals fleeing persecution. Each Sunday, our congregations pray for the world and for its people. We will pray for our elected officials and those who seek to be. We will pray for immigrants and refugees in our midst. And we will pray that God will use us as agents of hospitality and compassion, as tools for justice and reconciliation."

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)

On September 22, Linda Hartke, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) released a statement that reads in part, "Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is extremely disappointed that the state of Texas has announced that it is pulling out of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.... Texas leads the nation in refugee resettlement, and the decision to pull out of the refugee resettlement program after nearly 40 years of participation is misguided and inconsistent with that state’s proud history of welcoming refugees."

Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston

Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston works across faith traditions to promote dialogue, collaboration, and service, all as a sign of the "strength of shared beliefs." While these faiths have their own distinctive qualities that add to the rich tapestry of Texas, a common value of these traditions is welcoming the stranger. The stranger is often a traveler from place to place, seeking hospitality while on a journey or refugee when fleeing danger. From Islam to Judaism, Zoroastrian to Baha’i, Sikh to Humanist, this welcome of those who are on a long sojourn, far from home and in need of care, is a deeply cherished principle. This principle is also at the core of the American experience; we have long been a land of people seeking new beginnings, a safe respite, space to practice their faith; in turn, those people remembered the simple chance to make a safer, better, and richer lives for themselves and their children, and reciprocated when they saw others in the same need. 
 
While the decisions made by the state of Texas have created difficulties in the refugee resettlement process, Interfaith Ministries, like other refugee resettlement agencies, has the will and will find the way to continue this work because the work is important. While we believe that the decisions reflect a posture of fear and unreasonable concerns, we acknowledge the choices made by our state leaders; however, Interfaith Ministries will continue to do its best to welcome those who long for better lives. Our country's history is a testament to a fundamental truth: those who seek better lives for themselves tend to seek better lives for their neighbors as well.
 

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For more information contact Bee Moorhead.

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