We all fled something.
I don’t know the exact circumstance under which my ancestors came to America. Family lore has it that the German ancestor came seeking religious freedom and the Scots-Irish fled the potato famine.
Neither entered a country without discrimination. The phrase “No Irish Need Apply” was so common that commercial sign makers printed it. The wave of Germans suffered discrimination as they entered and again, most acutely, at the onset of World War I, when xenophobia exposed well-settled families to overt threats and squelched the use of German language, music, and literature.
Fear mongering masquerading as patriotism was in full display last week as backlash against Syrian refugees rolled through the U.S. House of Representatives. Columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that it was providential that the House leaders were not in power when Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus fled to Egypt for their safety.
Stephen Mattson at Sojourners, writes: “By rejecting refugees, we are rejecting Christ, and we’re condemning millions of people—deeply loved creations of God—to more misery. It may cost us wealth, comfort, time, energy, and even our sense of well-being, but this is what following Jesus means: to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love refugees.”
And we can all fight mindless fear. None of those arrested for terrorist activities in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, was a refugee; half were U.S. citizens.
We’d do well to remember William Penn (1644-1718). After being expelled from Christ College in Oxford for his religious beliefs and imprisoned in the Tower of London, he sailed to America founding the religiously tolerant colony of Pennsylvania, where my German ancestors settled.
He prayed, simply, as one would expect of a Quaker, “Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand.”
Photos: Library of Congress
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