We are all Syrian. We are all Muslim.

Statement from San Diego Bishop James Mathes

[Episcopal Diocese of San Diego] The last nine days have been a disquieting and dizzying display of presidential action in Mr. Trump’s first days in office. It is difficult for us to find focus as he occupies the media space railing about the size of the inauguration crowd and making unsubstantiated claims regarding voter fraud. From a public policy perspective, there is much to worry about: news blackouts from federal departments, possible trade wars, and comments about illegal torture to name a few.

However, Friday’s executive order to halt immigration from seven Muslim countries, including the suspension of refugees from war-ravaged Syria, is an affront to our sense of fairness and equity. Indeed, the president even stated that our nation would give preferential treatment to Christians over Muslims, thereby invoking a religious standard for entry that is anathema to our national creed. Fanning the fears of 9/11 and ISIS, the president wants us to believe that we will be safer because we change who we are as a people who welcome the immigrant and the refugee. But we are the nation of the Marshall Plan, Famine Relief and Tsunami recovery. Our dark chapters of the last century include Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order 9066, which interred Japanese Americans because of their ethnicity. This is too eerily familiar. Surely we have learned from our past and discovered the better angels of our nature.

As a Christian and a bishop, I have struggled with Trump’s quick claims of his own Christian identity, which seem at odds with his sexist behavior, his dishonesty, and his ostentatious consumption and wealth. But I now know what “America First” means to him and I cannot be silent. America First means the exercise of power and selfishness of which I want no part. These actions will give fodder and strength to those who wish to do us harm. We are at our best as a nation when we give. We are strong when we have appropriate boundaries and an open heart. The truth of the Christian life is indeed part of our national story: it is in giving that we receive.

After 9/11, the French paper, La Monde, ran a headline that declared: “Nous sommes tous Americains,” “We are all Americans.” In the spirit of the Confessing Church of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that stood against Nazi Germany, this follower of Jesus Christ can only stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from other nations and other faiths who are refugees. On this day, we are all Syrian. We are all Muslim.

President Trump’s actions are unacceptable and un-American. They do not represent who we are as a people. We must recover our senses. It is time to speak out in the name of all faiths and our national identity as a people united in our diversity. That is our gift to the world.

The Rt. Rev. James Mathes,
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of San Diego


  1. Fr. John H. Cawthorne+ says:

    Well said +James!
    As you asked I affirm my solidarity with all Muslims whose religion is named “Submission”.
    I feel as I suspect that Bonhoffer may have begun to feel as it began to become increasingly clear what a National Socialist.
    I note the elders of the GOP have not disavowed our new Leader. Tooday Speaker Ryan supported the barring of Muslims (in interest of honesty I name “The Beast’). He did have problems with the “roll out”–Process only.

    Fr. John H. Cawthorne+ (Dios. of MD, ret.)

  2. I could,not agree with you more but you have said more eloquently how I feel and analyze what is happening. My prayer every morning is Lord have mercy on our country and our world. We need His help all the time and I am comforted that God is in charge and not our narcissistic, unstable president

  3. Pamela Payne says:

    Thank you, Bishop James. I will stand with you in solidarity. And should even worse befall us, and Trump decrees a Muslim registry in the US, I fully intend to register. We are all God’s children and we all deserve to be allowed to live lives that reflect the Kingdom of God.

  4. Tony Oberdorfer says:

    Bishop Mathes’ near-hysterical politicization of the present situation suggests that he himself has lost his senses and is incompetent to hold his office. To propose that President Trump has committed a moral sin by indicating a preference for Christian refugees over Muslim is itself a sin given the horrible brutalization and killing of thousands of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere by Muslims. For shame, Bishop Mathes.

  5. Tony Oberdorfer says:

    And one more thing: Bishop Mathes might learn the difference between “inter” and

  6. The Reverend Charles Caskey says:

    Bishop Mathes,

    Thank you. I admire your leadership and I pray that more bishops will follow. One of the blessings of serving in the Diocese of Chicago with you was getting to know the wonderful Muslim men and women sponsored by St. Luke’s in Evanston. They continue to be a blessing.

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