A Letter to NH Governor Hassan

friends, hug, b+wOn Monday, Governor Maggie Hassan (NH), issued this statement through her communications director: “The Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people.”
As a concerned citizen, as a Christian, as the New England Annual Conference chair of the Conference Board of Church & Society, I wrote this letter to the Governor, signed by twelve United Methodist clergy in New Hampshire. An abbreviated version will also be appearing in the Valley News in the next few days. The letter is being sent by mail, and by a link to this post, to the Office of the Governor. 

—–

Dear Governor Hassan,

As United Methodist faith leaders in the State of New Hampshire, we write to urge you to reconsider your position, which calls upon the federal government to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees within the United States and, by extension, our state.

We want to thank you for your deep concern for the safety of the residents of the U.S. and of New Hampshire in particular. As one of our elected leaders, it is clear that you take your responsibility to public safety seriously and thoughtfully, and you are to be commended for that.

There comes a time, however, when the cries and the suffering of our siblings in the human family cannot be ignored or denied; our response cannot be delayed or deferred. Recognizing the unity and interdependence of humanity, we are obligated to respond from the greatest parts of ourselves, not from the fears which would restrain us. These are the very fears on which terrorism seeks to prey.

It is fear that would check our compassion, fear that causes us to withhold our welcome. As a nation, our process for screening and evaluating those seeking amnesty as refugees already is thorough and arduous. Halting the resettlement of refugees to re-examine that process, at this moment when the need is so great, is a fear-based reaction that delays justice—and justice delayed too long becomes justice denied.

But fear does not have the final say. There is another way: the way of love. Love drives out fear. Loves sees the children and adults fleeing violent regimes as our own children, parents, siblings, friends. Love moves individuals to open their homes, schools to open their classrooms, faith communities to open their piles of donated clothing and household goods, and yes, government bodies to open their borders. Love refuses to sleep at night in the “Land of Opportunity” while huddled masses of people yearning to breathe free are held back behind miles of red tape. Love refuses to enter a season of celebration—of community, of family, of the presence of the Divine with us—while those most in need of that embrace are told there is no room for them at any inn.

As we prepare in our communities for even the possibility of receiving refugees, we find in fact that we are drawn closer to one another—faith communities, service organizations, public institutions, and individuals work collaboratively to extend hospitality and welcome in our homes, towns, and regions. The people of New Hampshire are strengthened by this work, not diminished. We are at our best, strongest, most resilient, most connected, and most compassionate selves when we are working together for the good of others.

Governor, we hope and we pray that you will continue your deep care for the well being of the people of New Hampshire, and will extend that same, unrelenting compassion and passion for justice to those who are not yet among us. We hope that you will be moved by love beyond the fears pressing around us, and will boldly lead our State in wise, thoughtful, open-hearted welcome to those refugees who seek, like all of us, to live in safety and peace.

Sincerely,

Rev. Rebecca Girrell
chair, New England Conference Board of Church & Society
pastor, Lebanon United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. David Abbott, New Hampshire District Superintendent,
New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Pastor Marilyn Ayer
pastor, Chichester United Methodist Church

Rev. Sharon Baker
pastor, Moultonborogh United Methodist Church

Rev. Casey Collins
pastor, Milford United Methodist Church

Rev. Virginia Fryer
pastor, Bow Mills United Methodist Church

Rev. Tom Getchell-Lacey
pastor, First United Methodist Church of Gilford

Rev. Barbara Herber
United Methodist clergy, retired, Gilford

Rev. Philip Polhemus
United Methodist clergy, retired, Meredith

(and 3 other active and retired United Methodist clergy in the state of New Hampshire)

Signing this online version:

Rev. Geisa Matos-Machuca
pastor, First United Methodist Church, Manchester

 

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6 Responses

  1. Beautifully said my friend. Here, I would suspect, is the sticking point of your fearful neighbors. They see a massive world religion being co-opted by a violent sect. They see that the vast majority of this faith are peaceful, not in a state of conquest (Like it’s violent sects). However, this huge majority is largely silent in denouncing these actions. Why is this? Can you see how this may create some dissonance in your neighbors? Thanks for your post!

    • Thank you for your comment!

      I do hear lots and lots of Muslim voices condemning the violence of Daesh (ISIS). From the “I’m Muslim, but I’m not…” memes and videos, to the blindfolded man in the street inviting people to hug him, to the scholars and leaders and speakers on radio and television interviews.

      Frankly, when the Westboro Baptist Church pickets a soldier’s funeral, or a radical Christian bombs a Planned Parenthood clinic, I don’t hear a lot of Christian leaders condemn those actions, because many think it’s not worth dignifying with a response, and many who do respond don’t get media coverage. I think this is similar.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

      Peace,
      Becca

  2. People need to understand the violence that is happening for religion.
    We are letting people come in freely on both our borders and also fly them in. People are getting killed by these people HERE in the USA. Why should our American military be there to be killed when these Syrians should be fighting for their own country. While in another time it might be nice. American people are starving, without jobs, subpar housing, subpar education, subpar budgets and more! How are the churches going to vet these people when they don’t have the means to?
    Being nice doesn’t save lives!

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I disagree with a couple of your premises, here. First of all, what we as faith leaders are asking for is *not* to let people into the country without the proper vetting and evaluation by the federal government. There is already a strong and good process for screening potential refugees to be (randomly) settled in the United States, and we are asking that these procedures be followed. What we do not want, which the Governor is calling for, is for a halt while *new* procedures are considered and implemented and/or these current ones re-examined. We think that this would simply be a stall tactic. We trust the folks at the departments of State and Homeland Security and others to continue to do their jobs protecting the residents of the US and of NH.

      Neither are we advocating for United States military intervention in Syria. We are talking about accepting civilian refugees seeking amnesty, without any military engagement.

      There is no evidence to suggest that the people seeking refugee status in Europe, let alone in the United States (the later being a much more rigorous process), are connected to acts of terrorism or violence in the countries in which they settle. Simply put, “they” are not killing anyone. The people who are refugees from violence are fleeing the same regime that we would also like to see ended.

      Here in the United States, I’m afraid we are much more at risk of a mass act of violence by a white, middle aged, American-born-and-raised man, than any immigrant or refugee. And we are thoroughly unable to screen them/us. Although, one might suggest we could at least make it harder to get weapons…

      Finally, I agree with you that access to benefits in the United States are woefully lacking. I, too, would like to see all citizens and residents have access to food, housing, education, medical care, and more. For that reason, I am equally disappointed in NH Senator Ayotte for voting, for example, against a bill that would extend benefits to Veterans.

      Supporting those in greatest need is not an either/or proposition. I long for the day when we can extend safety to refugees *and* benefits to residents/citizens. We are blessed in abundance, and I hope to see us do better in sharing that.

      Thanks again for reading and responding.

      Peace,
      Becca

  3. I hope I’m responding in the right place. I believe you got my name in time to put on the letter. I’m happy to have it show up on your blog and move out of the “six others” list. Pastor Marilyn Ayer, Chichester UMC.

    • Gotcha, Marilyn, that’s exactly right! I had asked you all for permission to send your names to the Governor, but I didn’t want to post them publicly without specific permission for that, which you just gave.

      Thank you again for your support and leadership in this matter of faith! Blessings!

      Becca

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