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Midlands Voices: Refugee aid could win cultural war

Midlands Voices: Refugee aid could win cultural war

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The writer is the episcopal leader for the United Methodist Church in the Great Plains Conference, composed of Kansas and Nebraska.

We are all horrified by the terrible violence committed in Paris the evening of Nov. 13. We should be praying for the victims and their families and for the people of France who suffered this evil action.

At the same time, we must pay attention to the larger context in which this attack occurred. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, the bombings in Beirut, the beheadings of Christians in North Africa and now the Paris attacks are all part of a new kind of warfare being waged against Western civilization and against mainstream Islam by a small group of jihadists.

In this battle, the vast majority of Muslims are our allies. We must carefully distinguish our enemies — the jihadists of the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and the Taliban are the enemy. They believe themselves to be the only true Muslims, and most of their victims have been other Muslims.

Americans should understand that all Muslims are not alike and that this is first and foremost a battle within the Muslim community.

The culture war against jihadist Islam will not be won by military action, though such action is necessary to resist its expansion and to fight against terrorist actions. But we need vigilance and care.

The war will be won by our ideas and our behavior in living the kinds of lives that represent diversity, religious freedom and mutual respect.

That is why we must welcome as many Syrian refugees as possible to America and demonstrate to Muslims all over the world the kind of hospitality and mutual respect that is America at its best. We Christians must take the lead in welcoming Muslim refugees, because it is what Scripture commands us (Matthew 25, Leviticus 19, Hebrews 13).

There is a tactical reason to welcome them. When Western countries mistreat and reject Muslims, it becomes a recruiting tool and propaganda weapon for our enemies.

I am deeply disappointed that so many governors — including those of Kansas and Nebraska — have rejected the idea of receiving refugees. They are pandering to our worst fears and failing to lead us to be our best selves as a nation. They also are making a strategic mistake.

This culture war will be won by the Christian values of love, tolerance, mutual respect and hospitality. As a nation and as states, we need to welcome the stranger among us.

The United Methodist Church has long played a role in welcoming immigrants to our country. We believe that Christians are called to provide hospitality to strangers in line with Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Further, we are committed to the freedom of religion in our society, and we believe that America should be a place where Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and those of no religion can live side by side in our communities.

I am pleased to announce that at least 35 United Methodist congregations in Kansas and Nebraska are willing to sponsor a Syrian refugee family when that becomes possible. We have sponsored refugee families in the past, and we are prepared to offer our hospitality for this group as well. These are churches that will help these people settle and find new lives in America.

We understand that people are concerned about security and that appropriate screening procedures will be used.

We believe that our Christian duty of hospitality as well as our best contribution to the war against radical Islamist fighters is to show that they cannot successfully stop us from living out our Christian and American values.

Christ commanded us to take care of the least of these in Matthew 25:40, and our offer is a way of being obedient to Christ. We urge all government officials to open a pathway for us to welcome these refugees to our country.

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