In the aftermath of the tragic events in Paris, Beirut, Colorado Springs, and dozens of other not so noteworthy places where innocent people are killed by religious zealots, the rhetoric of many pundits, politicians and zealots has turned to hatred for, fear of and in some cases outright fabrications about refugees, non-Christian religions and these tragic events. I don’t have a definitive answer to the refugee problem in the world. I’m not sure there is a clear answer to be had. Still, I am concerned about the directions the conversation seems to heading toward. One interesting article I read indicated that the shooter in Colorado at the Planned Parenthood clinic (which, by the way, may not have even offered abortion services) would not be tagged as a terrorist because he was a Christian, as though a Christian could not be a terrorist. But, had he been of another faith tradition would most certainly have been labeled as a “________ terrorist” (fill in the blank with the religion of your choice.) I’m not a fan of labeling people, but we must at least be honest about the way we apply the labels we use. A shooter, in my mind, is terrorizing others no matter the religious affiliation.
Then, too, I saw a blog by a woman from Toledo, Ohio, who had returned for the Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends. She reflected on the rich history of diversity that has existed in Toledo for more than a hundred years. Syrian-Lebanese immigrants came there in 1881, many of them fleeing persecution by the Ottoman Empire. Others followed: Hungarians, Poles, Indians, Pakistanis, Italians, and Arabs; Christians and Muslims and Jews alike. “Toledo is lesser known for its humanitarian streak. But today, it is one of the few cities across the United States welcoming Syrian refugees with open arms. Lots of recent reporting has featured the experiences of newly arrived Syrians in the area. An interesting detail is that the American Jewish Resettlement Agency HIAS is a major force in resettling these Syrian refugees - many of whom are Muslim - in Toledo. Other Jewish organizations also work to resettle Syrians in Toledo and elsewhere.”
Her article reminded me of Louisville, Kentucky. Since I arrived here as an immigrant from Tennessee (and Ohio!), I have always been impressed with the welcoming nature of our city. Sure there were some problems a century or so ago when the Germans, Italians and Irish invaded various neighborhoods. But somehow the city moved on to become a place which has welcomed refugees from Bosnia/Herzegovina, Kosovo, El Salvador, Somalia, Columbia, Cuba, Russia, Sudan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam, Korea, Mexico, and a score of others. Like the people who came to Toledo, the folks who have come here, have become a part of the fabric of our community. We are a city with Hindu and Sikh Temples, Mosques, a Buddhist Temple, Orthodox and Catholic Cathedrals, a Baha’i Center and a multitude of Protestant denominations.
I would like to think that the rhetoric we are hearing about how it is Christian and American to hate, fear and deny refugees the possibility of a new life does not reflect the true narrative of American diversity, which is reflected in the populations of Toledo and Louisville. And, like Toledo, I hope we continue to be a welcoming and inclusive community regardless of where the refugees and immigrants originate. Let us be a light amidst the darkness of the world which surrounds us and our neighbors.
Posted on Tue, December 8, 2015
by Doug Meister