Dear Companions in Christ in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut:
Last Friday, January 27, 2017 President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order entitled: "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States". This far-reaching and sweeping Executive Order includes, but is not limited to: suspending our country's refugee resettlement program for 120 days, suspending the resettlement of Syrian refugees for an indefinite time, reducing the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States in this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000,and prohibiting entry into the United States of citizens from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for a period of 90 days.
This Executive Order contravenes our American values of welcoming immigrants and refugees to our shores and makes a mockery of the words on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...."
As Christians, welcoming the alien and stranger is a fundamental feature of our faith. Hebrew Scripture over and over underscores the importance of treating the alien with hospitality and justice. "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 22:21) "Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice." (Deuteronomy 27:19) We recall that our Lord and Savior was a refugee, fleeing with his mother and father into Egypt to escape persecution and death. (Matthew 2:13-15) And Jesus reminds us that in welcoming the stranger, we are welcoming Christ himself into our midst. (Matthew: 25:31-46)
For over 35 years the Episcopal Church in Connecticut has worked to welcome refugees to Connecticut, first through Episcopal Social Services and currently in cooperation with Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services - IRIS http://www.irisct.org. Our last three diocesan Annual Conventions articulated our support of IRIS and refugees. In 2014 we entered into a covenanted relationship with IRIS promising to work together closely in settling refugees. Read resolution here. In response to the growing refugee crisis in Syria, we committed ourselves in 2015 to co-sponsoring the resettlement of a minimum 30 refugee families in 2016. Read resolution here. And at our last Annual Convention in November we reiterated our support for IRIS and asked parishes and individuals to give to IRIS and consider sponsoring a refugee family. Read resolution here.
We cannot be idle as this Executive Order threatens to undermine the values that we stand for as Americans, as Christians, as Episcopalians in Connecticut. We, your bishops, urge the parishes and people of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to take action in one or more of the following ways:
Pray: Pray for all who are adversely affected by this Executive Order and whose lives are threatened by these actions. Pray also that our President and his administration will have an amendment of heart and reconsider this order. We particularly invite you to add the prayer For Social Justice found on page 823 of the Book of Common Prayer to your personal prayers and Sunday Prayers of the People:
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Speak Out: Use your voice to share your concerns about the Executive Order. Write an editorial to your local paper; use social media to connect; participate in vigils, gatherings, and witness opportunities; and sign onto petitions. Along with other faith leaders, we your bishops have recently signed the Interfaith Immigration Coalition Letter to President Trump. See letter here.
Advocate: Write, call, email, and text your local Congressperson and Senators Blumenthal and Murphy sharing your position on the Executive Order and encouraging their efforts to work against the Executive Order.
Attend: Participate in the annual ECCT Companions in Mission Ministry Network conference: "Refugees and Immigrants: Across the Street and Around the World" to be held at St. John's Episcopal Church in West Hartford on March 4, 2017. Registration can be found at here.
Collaborate: Work with your parish, other parishes in your area, ecumenical and interfaith partners, and community organizations to welcome refugees into your neighborhood through IRIS and other refugee resettlement agencies.
Give: Donate generously to IRIS http://www.irisct.org/index.php/financial-donation/ and other refugee resettlement agencies such as Episcopal Migration Ministries http://www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/how_you_can_help/donate_now.aspx so that they can continue their work resettling immigrants and refugees.
Additional ideas for how you can help are found on the Episcopal Migration Ministries website here.
Thank you for your attention to the plight of refugees and immigrants in the world, and especially in the United States at this time. May we see Christ in those who are different from us, welcoming strangers and aliens with open arms of hospitality, love, and generosity. God's mission of restoration and reconciliation compels us to continue to settle immigrants and refugees in our country.
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
Bishop Diocesan Bishop Suffragan