Rhode Island Episcopal bishop, interfaith leaders sign letter against refugee ban

Exclusions based on nationality or religion "dishonor our shared humanity"

[Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island] Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely and numerous clergy from the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island have joined a group of interfaith leaders in signing a letter asking the Trump administration and Congress to “demonstrate moral leadership and affirm their support for the resettlement of refugees from all over the world to the United States.”

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order suspending the nation’s refugee resettlement program and restricting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for four months. He also suspended the resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

The interfaith group of Rhode Island religious leaders who signed the petition comprises: the Rev. Dr. Tom Wiles, executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island, the Right Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, the Rev. James Hazelwood, Lutheran bishop of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rabbi Sarah Mack, president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island and Mufti Ikram Haq of the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement, the Rev. Dr. Don Anderson, executive director of the Rhode Island Council of Churches and the Rev. Barbara J. Libby, interim director of the Rhode Island Conference of Churches (United Churches of Christ).

“This nation has an urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need of safety,” states the letter, which has been signed by more than 2,000 religious leaders from across the country. “Today, with more than five million Syrian refugees fleeing violence and persecution and hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, the United States has an ethical obligation as a world leader to reduce this suffering and generously welcome Syrian refugees into our country.”

The letter continues:

“The U.S. Refugee Resettlement program has been and should remain open to those of all nationalities and religions who face persecution on account of the reasons enumerated under U.S. law,” the letter, states. “We oppose any policy change that would prevent refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, or individuals who practice Islam and other faiths from accessing the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Proposals that would have the U.S. State Department disqualify refugees from protection based on their nationality or religion fly in the face of the very principles this nation was built upon, contradict the legacy of leadership our country has historically demonstrated, and dishonor our shared humanity.”

Most of the leaders who signed the letter were among a crowd of more than 1,000 people who participated in a rally against the executive order yesterday at the state house.

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