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  • Rev. Sara Lilja

'Welcome' in New Jersey

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19)

Steadfast love is about God; God acts in steadfast love – in hesed – toward his people. We do not “live up to” God’s expectations. Our treatment of others, the migrant, the stranger. But God is abounding in steadfast love. We pursue love of our neighbor and welcome, for God’s sake.

As faith leaders we are not naive about possible threats of terrorism, but denying refuge to thousands of desperate people is not who we are as people of faith, nor will it guarantee our security. New Jersey is a religiously diverse society, and our welcome to refugees should continue to reflect this. We must redouble our efforts to work for a more secure world – one with less hate and more understanding, one that witnesses to the Steadfast love of God for the world.

Terrible periods of hostile discourse and actual warfare between Christians, Jews and Muslims, such as the Crusades have left a legacy of mistrust, misunderstanding and stereotypes. This legacy has been confirmed in the imaginations of many. Within this historical context, militant extremist has spawned acts of terrifying violence--acts repudiated, it must be emphasized, by the great body of Muslims.

The Council of Immams of New Jersey condemns these extremists’ attacks perpetuated on the human society. Their Imam, W. Deen Mohammad (1933-2008) is recorded to have advised: “The road from prayer to proper moral respect is a long road, It is a stretch in conscience, requiring that our attitudes conform to rational principles in any given situation.”

The thousands of courageous Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland go through a rigorous security screening involving the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense and multiple intelligence agencies. Refugees are the most scrutinized and screened individuals to enter the U.S. Intensive security screening by the government of all refugees prior to admission to the U.S. is and should continue to be a detailed and thorough process.

We urge our elected officials to work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are attempting to survive the horror of war. Faith-based voters are very attentive to these issues and we are steadfast in our resolve to help those in need.

Your Lord is sure to give you so much that you will be well satisfied. Did He not find you an orphan and shelter you? Did He not find you lost and guide you? Did He not find you in need and make you self-sufficient?

So do not be harsh with the orphan and do not chide the one who asks for help; talk about the blessings of your Lord. (Q.93:6-11) The Qur’an: A new translation by M. A. S. Haleem, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2004)

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