In a sweeping public display of unity, religious leaders representing nearly all of Minnesota’s faith communities joined forces Monday to urge President Trump to rescind his temporary halt to immigration, arguing it defied “the mandates of our faith” to turn away vulnerable people in urgent need of safety.
A dozen Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders — ranging from evangelical to St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda — spoke at a quickly assembled news conference in Minneapolis to share their concerns.
“I think this has brought us together in a way that is remarkable,” said Rabbi Morris Allen, of Beth Jacob Congregation. “Imams, evangelicals, Protestants, a Catholic bishop ... it speaks to the resiliency of what Americans are about.”
For more than an hour, the religious leaders approached the microphone at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church and spoke of their deep concerns about Trump’s executive order that would bar citizens from Somalia and six other largely Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, and suspend all refugee admissions for 120 days.
Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, was among those who argued the order was a “thinly veiled attempt” to keep Muslims out of the country.
“President Trump’s mother is an immigrant,” Zaman told the group. “President Trump’s wife is an immigrant. His ex-wife is an immigrant. This is about stoking fear.”
“We have let fear and false facts define our refugee policy,” added Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota, the network of Minnesota’s evangelical churches. “God commands us to love, welcome and seek justice for refugees and other immigrants.”
Minnesota’s religious communities have a long tradition of supporting refugees. Four of the five state refugee resettlement agencies are faith-based — the Minnesota Council of Churches, Lutheran Social Service, Catholic Charities, and Arrive Ministries, an affiliate of World Relief.
Speakers shared examples of refugees from their agencies who now are banned from Minnesota.
Nelson said a Somali mother and her baby who had fled to China, and were supposed to land in Minneapolis on Valentine’s Day, are now grounded. Their apartment has been set up, a church community has been set up to welcome them. Everything is on hold.
Eleven 11 families with similar arrangements in place were slated to arrive through the Minnesota Council of Churches in January and February, all to reunite with relatives here, said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, the council CEO.
Likewise a 4-year-old Somali girl, separated from her mother shortly after birth in Uganda, was slated to arrive in Minneapolis Monday through Lutheran Social Service. That’s on hold.
“See what our fear has done?” said Chemberlin. “It’s kept a 4-year-old from uniting with her mother.”
Bishop Bruce Ough, of the United Methodist Church of Minnesota, and president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops, called the immigration ban “profoundly antithetical to our values of compassion, dignity, and justice for all individuals.”
He quoted a Greek translation of the Bible, in which Jesus says: “Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth.”
“The very soul of our country is at stake,” said Ough. “When we abandon strangers who are at risk of bigotry, xenophobia, and violence, we not only destroy their hope, we destroy our own souls.”
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this article.