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Iowa and National Evangelical Leaders Send Letter to Presidential Candidates Regarding Immigrants

Des Moines Register Digital Ad Boosts Effort

DES MOINES, JANUARY 27, 2016 — In a letter today, evangelical leaders across Iowa are sending a message to presidential candidates to encourage a compassionate response to immigrants and refugees, as guided by Scripture.

Joined by five national evangelical leaders, the 32 Iowa signatories seek a biblical approach regarding immigrants and immigration. The letter is also featured in a digital ad buy: a takeover of the Des Moines Register’s Caucuses page.

“Immigrants are not just our co-workers but also our neighbors, friends and members of our church family,” the letter reads. “Having lived and worshipped together, we know them to be vital members of our community. When our immigrant neighbors are attacked with harsh rhetoric, we feel their pain.

“ … Scripture guides us toward a just and compassionate response to immigrants in our country. We encourage you to heed its words and get to know our communities. Come meet us and our immigrant neighbors, friends and fellow church members.”

The following are quotes from signatories:

Douglas Van Aartsen, Pastor, First Reformed Church, Ireton, Iowa:
“I support this endeavor because I believe that we as Christians are called by God to welcome the immigrant and to treat everyone with the dignity and respect that are ours, because we are all created in the image of God and find salvation in Jesus Christ alone.”

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals:
“The Bible says a lot about immigrants and how we are to treat them. This letter invites candidates to begin with the Bible to develop our immigration policies.”

Shirley Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU):
“With the primaries approaching, it’s crucial that we engage with our political leaders on matters that are important to us through letters like this. The impact of our broken immigration system is something that is near to all of our hearts, as the people directly affected are our neighbors, classmates, students and fellow church members. Therefore, we must ensure our leaders understand that as Christians, we are called to both love the stranger and to uphold the law, and so we must work together to find solutions that meet both of these goals.”

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC):
“Demagoguery or constructive conversations; that is the choice for today’s presidential contenders. As it pertains to immigration, Americans will no longer tolerate sound bites. Now is the time for a solution that will protect our borders and values. Now is the time for a Christian conservative prescription; one that stops illegal immigration while integrating those currently here in a manner that reflects the hopes of Ronald Reagan and the conviction of Jack Kemp. Now is the time!”

 

 

‘The Stranger’ to Premiere on GOD TV

Film Explores Biblical Response to Immigration

WASHINGTON, D.C., JANUARY 22, 2016 — This weekend, The Stranger will make its television premiere on GOD TV, a worldwide faith-based programming service on TV and online.

The film, which highlights the stories of three families caught in our broken immigration system, has been screened nearly 3,700 times in 47 states and Washington, D.C., since its debut in June 2014.

It will air tomorrow at 8:45 p.m. EST and Sunday at 1:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. EST, online as well as on television. The screening is part of the network’s broader focus on refugees, which includes a social media effort using hashtag #loveyourneighbour.

The Stranger challenges perceptions of what is the ‘typical’ immigrant story and shows how the strangers in our midst are also our co-workers, neighbors, classmates, and sisters and brothers in Christ,” said Liuan Huska, whose family is featured in the film.

Pastor Derrick Smith and his wife, Meghan, speak in the film about their involvement with the Kaleidoscope Multi-Ethnic Fellowship in South Carolina and about welcoming our immigrant neighbors.

“Christians have a unique opportunity to show the love of Jesus by welcoming the stranger among us,” said Meghan Smith. “The Stranger shows us how our faith can inform our politics and how scripture can serve as our guide for how to address the important issue of immigration reform.”

“While the rhetoric of fear dominates the political conversation surrounding refugees and immigrants in our country, it is more important than ever to have a biblically grounded view of the Christian necessity to welcome the stranger,” Derrick Smith said. “There are eternal ramifications. This film explores real stories that humanize the issue.”

The Stranger offers a stirring presentation of the biblical and human dimensions of our nation’s debate on immigration reform,” said Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President of Public Policy and Research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who is interviewed in the film. “Before you make up your mind about this important issue that affects millions of families, you should watch this film.”

Evangelical Leaders Thank Congress for Conciliation on Refugees

WASHINGTON, D.C., DECEMBER 17, 2015 — Evangelical Christian leaders are thanking Congress today for agreeing to a spending bill that does not target refugee resettlement.

In a letter to Congress, a press call, a panel on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, leaders have underscored the Christian and American value of compassion for refugees and the need to protect Americans as well as protect those who are most vulnerable. A radio ad this week sounds a similar theme.

“Congress, via the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan, exhibited prophetic courage by not surrendering our Judeo-Christian values on the altar of expediency, said Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

“Local churches throughout the United States are eager to continue to welcome refugees as an expression of our biblical faith, just as they have done for decades,” said Matthew Soerens, U.S. Director of Church Mobilization, World Relief. “I’m grateful that, in coming together to pass this critical bill, Congress has not in any way impeded the ability of carefully-vetted refugees to be considered for resettlement, nor the ability of local churches partnering with World Relief and other resettlement agencies to welcome them.

“As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ and his subsequent flight as a refugee, fleeing a tyrannical government, we thank God that we live in a nation with a long history of welcoming those fleeing persecution, and we thank our elected officials for continuing that noble tradition.”

“Despite many differences, congressional leaders have reached agreement on funding the essential functions of government, including providing for our national security, resolving international conflicts and caring for refugees who have fled those conflicts,” added Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals. “We are especially pleased that the agreement does not include provisions that would have prevented life-saving help for some of the most vulnerable refugees. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we continue to pray for peace and to care for the victims of war.”

Illinois Evangelical Leaders Send Letter to Senators Regarding Refugees

 CHICAGO, DECEMBER 17, 2015 — Today, evangelical leaders from Illinois are sending a letter to Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin, calling on the congressmen, as well as Gov. Bruce Rauner, to show compassion and to welcome Syrian refugees into the state.

The 17 signatories remind the senators of the United States’ history as a safe haven for those fleeing from persecution, and the extensive security system in place for refugees to safeguard our nation from harm. It comes after Rauner said in November that the state would stop accepting refugees.

“Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of travelers to the U.S. Our current system has been time-tested and effective,” the letter reads. “With more than 3 million refugees admitted to the U.S. since the 1970s, there has never been a terrorist attack perpetrated in U.S. by an individual admitted through the refugee resettlement program.

“We should take caution—and we are—but we also cannot let fear drive us to turn away, even temporarily, to those fleeing persecution. This does not reflect the moral courage and compassion characteristic of our great nation and great state of Illinois.”

“As a resident of Chicago and a member of the Irving Park community in Chicago, I, and the many congregations that we are a part of through City First, would like our Illinois legislators to know that we welcome immigrants and refugees in our area,” said signatory Rev. Mark D. Johnson, Pastor/Executive Director, Tapestry Fellowship/City First Foundation, Chicago. “We stand for the freedom and opportunity of millions in America and throughout the world. We ask that all of our legislators prayerfully enact policies that reflect compassion and justice.”

“As Christ followers, welcoming the stranger is our indisputable biblical call,” said Liz Dong, Midwest Regional Mobilizer for the Evangelical Immigration Table. “Many evangelical churches and leaders here in Illinois and around the country understand that a compassionate response to receiving refugees and immigrants does not have to come at the expense of security. America has led the way in being a refuge for the persecuted and the vulnerable. We hope we will not forsake that heritage.”

Radio Ad Urges Compassion toward Refugees

Ad to Air Before and After Tonight’s GOP Debate

LAS VEGAS, DECEMBER 15, 2015 — A new radio ad calls for compassion toward refugees and other immigrants.

The ad will air nationwide on more than 100 local Salem Radio affiliates before and after tonight’s Republican primary debate. Salem Radio is a co-sponsor of the debate, with host Hugh Hewitt among those who will ask questions.

“God calls us to care for [refugees], regardless of their religion and wherever they are,” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says in the ad. “Of course we must maintain our security. And we can do that without turning our backs on the neighbors here and around the world whom we are called to love.

“Let us call on our political leaders and candidates to protect Americans and protect the innocent. And let us engage in a conversation that honors our values as Christians and as Americans.”

 

 

 

Evangelical Leaders Call for Compassion for Refugees

For a recording of the call click here. 

WASHINGTON, D.C., DECEMBER 2, 2015 — National and local evangelical leaders from across the country joined a press call today to voice their support for welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, and highlight the biblical call to welcome the vulnerable.

As Congress considers how to move forward on refugee-related legislation, Evangelical Immigration Table organizations also sent a letter to Congress today, calling for compassion and declaring their churches’ and colleges’ commitment to help refugees resettle and integrate successfully.

“Our faith inspires us to respond with compassion and hospitality to those fleeing violence and persecution,” the letter states. “Jesus himself was a refugee, and he teaches us to do unto others as we would have them do to us. Compassion is not in conflict with national security.

“The U.S. refugee resettlement program has embodied both values and continues to be a valuable humanitarian tool that should be supported. Our nation has rich history as a beacon of freedom and hope. Please help us as we write the next chapter in this history.”

The following are quotes from speakers on today’s call:

Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals:

“Evangelicals have strongly supported the U.S. refugee resettlement program for decades because it not only reflects the American value of protecting human life and freedom, but also our Christian commitment to caring for the most vulnerable. The United States has the best and most secure refugee resettlement program in the world. Our approach has worked so well because evangelical Christians and others have played a prominent role in welcoming the 3 million freedom-loving refugees who are now valued members of our communities and churches.”

Ali Chambers, Lead Pastor of Mosaic Church, Memphis, Tenn.:

“We come to the issue of immigration with a Christian perspective and with a historical perspective. In the history of humanity, we have all been refugees or immigrants, many of us fleeing persecution. As a pastor I lead my people to approach immigration and the outsider in that way. We always want to be welcoming to those who are less fortunate than we are, who are vulnerable, who are hurting. This is the heart of the gospel message. And we would hope that our country’s response would reflect that as well.”

Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy and Research, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

“The Middle East is in great turmoil today, but the church is not. Our security resides in a Savior who overcame death itself. Some look at the current Syrian crisis and respond with fear. Fear divides, love unites. Our confidence in God can empower us to look past fear and see in the refugee a fellow human being, created in God’s image, who needs our love and help.”

Tyler Johnson, Lead Pastor of Redemption Church Arizona:

“The responsibility of pastoral leadership is to remind congregants of God. Christians believe God is seen perfectly in the man Jesus Christ. Jesus himself was an international migrant whose family was fleeing violence. Christians are to call one other to greater love and good deeds. The Bible tells us that this call to love extends even into the purpose of government. Government is given by God to create more loving and just societies.”

Chris McElwee, Local Impact Pastor, Wheaton Bible Church, West Chicago, Ill.:

“Immigrants bring things to our community that are so welcome and so needed. We learn so much from our immigrant brothers and sisters: their grit, their determination, their high value of family and community. We as a church have benefited from learning from these people who have come from all over and joined our congregation. It has been a real gift to have the opportunity to learn from them, grow with them, and see their families thrive in our community into the second and third generations.”

Mike Phillips, Senior Pastor, Immanuel Fellowship, Frisco, Colo.:

“We are advocating a compassionate approach to the Syrian refugee crisis. Many evangelicals, specifically here in Colorado, are increasingly bothered by negative rhetoric that is fueling hate and fear. As I’ve looked at the vetting process, I think it’s a very tight, very good process, but I understand that some people are frightened. I’m hearing from evangelicals that they want to be more proactive to help the millions of refugees.”

Jenny Yang, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy, World Relief:

“Evangelical leaders across the country are standing with refugees as an outward sign of their compassion and faith. The U.S. refugee resettlement program must continue to welcome the most vulnerable refugees from around the world. We urge Congress to not restrict the program in any way and instead work with local faith communities and governments to welcome refugees.”

 

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The Evangelical Immigration Table is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values.

Evangelical Immigration Table – Syrian Refugee Letter

DOWNLOAD PDF

December 2, 2015

Dear Members of Congress,

With more than 50 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people in the world, we are facing the world’s worst displacement crisis since World War II. The conflict in Syria alone has forced approximately 4 million individuals to flee the country, with millions more displaced internally. The deliberate, brutal targeting of Christians solely because of their faith is especially alarming.

Since the inception of the modern U.S. refugee resettlement program in 1975, 3 million individuals fleeing violence, conflict and persecution have started their lives anew in the United States. Many of these refugees have been welcomed by local church communities that have helped them get back on their feet. Just last year alone, the United States resettled close to 70,000 refugees. In 1980, the United States received more than 200,000 refugees in one year. Resettlement to the United States is not the sole or primary solution to the displacement crisis, but this important tool in humanitarian protection rescues the most vulnerable refugees and embodies the best of our country’s values. It also promotes a positive image of our country abroad and encourages other nations to follow our example.

As Congress considers legislation to reform the program, we ask you to consider the following:

  • Reject damaging changes to the U.S. refugee resettlement system that would cause this life-saving program to grind to a halt. Adding additional layers of bureaucracy to a proven system will not make us any safer, but it will keep us from providing refuge to people whose lives have already been threatened. The U.S. resettlement program is a life-saving tool that rescues some of the most vulnerable refugees around the world. It is also one of the most secure programs the United States has for allowing anyone to enter the country. While tourists, students and business travelers may undergo minimal security screening, it takes on average 18-24 months for a refugee to be vetted through the security process. Biographic and biometric data is collected and checked against multiple U.S. security and intelligence databases. In addition, each refugee has a face-to-face interview with a trained Department of Homeland Security official as well as a thorough medical screening before they are admitted. This process has worked to exclude individuals who could be a potential threat to our national security.
  • Do not exclude any religion or nationality from the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The hallmark of our refugee resettlement program is that it accepts refugees based on vulnerability and ties to the United States. Religion and nationality are factors to consider in evaluating the refugee claim, but the program should not exclude a refugee on one of those grounds alone. Each refugee story is unique and as such should be treated on its own merit.
  • Increase the resettlement of Christian refugees. The persecution of Christians is uniquely severe given their extreme minority status. Christian communities in the Middle East are facing attacks that can only be considered genocidal in intent. The United States must do more to protect them.
  • Do not neglect other vulnerable refugee groups. We are concerned about the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians. Resettlement is one tool of protection which can and should be used in cases where refugees cannot return home or locally integrate. The United States should identify and receive a larger number of religious minorities from the Middle East including, but not limited to, Christians. The United States can increase the resettlement of persecuted Christians in addition to other vulnerable religious groups, including Yazidis, Muslims, and others.
  • Address root causes of the conflict so more refugees do not have to flee. Resettlement is a durable solution of last resort in extreme situations and is not an option for most refugees. Refugees often prefer to return home once conditions in their home countries improve or locally integrate in the countries of asylum. Thus, we urge you to dramatically increase assistance to refugees in places where they seek refuge, while also acknowledging that resettlement is a key durable solution for many refugees who are unable to return home or locally integrate in a country of asylum.
  • Work with governors and local communities to welcome refugees. The U.S. refugee resettlement program is a federal responsibility that depends on the cooperation of local and state governments, as well as churches and volunteers. We urge you to work with state and local elected officials to ensure that states continue to fulfill their responsibilities. Many businesses and faith communities welcome refugees and work in close partnership with state and local governments to help refugees become self-sufficient, quickly integrated, contributing members of their communities.

The United States resettles less than half of 1% of the world’s refugees. At a time when turmoil and war are forcing millions of people to flee their homes, the United States should ensure the refugee resettlement program, a vital lifeline, continues to protect the world’s persecuted. As our country does so, many evangelical Christians within local churches and college campuses are eager and willing to volunteer their time and resources to assist in the resettlement and successful integration of refugees.

Our faith inspires us to respond with compassion and hospitality to those fleeing violence and persecution. Jesus himself was a refugee, and he teaches us to do unto others as we would have them do to us. Compassion is not in conflict with national security. The U.S. refugee resettlement program has embodied both values and continues to be a valuable humanitarian tool that should be supported. Our nation has rich history as a beacon of freedom and hope. Please help us as we write the next chapter in this history.

Sincerely,

The Evangelical Immigration Table

25 Wisconsin Evangelical Leaders Sign Letter Calling for a Respectful Immigration Dialogue

Effort Precedes Tuesday’s GOP Debate

MILWAUKEE, NOVEMBER 9, 2015 — In an open letter running online through tomorrow in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 25 Wisconsin pastors and other evangelical leaders call on GOP presidential candidates to address immigrants and immigration respectfully and focus on solutions.

The letter counters harsh rhetoric toward immigrants from some presidential candidates and other political leaders. It follows a similar letter from Colorado evangelical leaders on Oct. 28.

“Scripture repeatedly calls us to extend hospitality and kindness to immigrants,” the letter writers state. “As many local churches throughout our state have sought to do so, we have been blessed by the immigrants within our community, many of whom are now integral parts of our local churches.

“ … We are looking for presidential candidates who offer sensible policies on immigration that will not only secure our borders and meet the needs of our labor markets, but which also address immigrant communities with compassion.”

“We hope that the candidates will heed the urging of many Wisconsin evangelical leaders,” said Liz Dong, Midwest Regional Mobilizer for the Evangelical Immigration Table. “A civil and informed discussion on immigration will help us move forward as a country.”

63 Colorado Evangelical Leaders Sign Letter Calling for a Respectful Immigration Dialogue

Effort Precedes Tonight’s GOP Debate
BOULDER, COLO., OCTOBER 28, 2015 — In an open letter published this morning as a full-page ad in the Boulder Daily Camera, 63 Colorado pastors and other evangelical leaders call on GOP presidential candidates to craft respectful, solutions-based messages on immigration.

In a key state for 2016, the letter counters harsh rhetoric toward immigrants from some presidential candidates and other political leaders.

“The immigrant community and our community are one and the same,” the letter states. “Together, for several years we have diligently worked to create space to dialogue and learn from one another about how the broken immigration system has affected our communities, keeping us divided. And, we have come to this shared conclusion: Immigrants are vital in our communities, and we must treat them with respect and dignity. Our laws must reflect that conclusion.”

“So many of us feel that we need to do something to stand up to the negativity around the immigration debate,” said Michelle Warren, an Evangelical Immigration Table leader in Colorado. “We are desperate for a conversation that welcomes immigrants with compassion.”

Letters Urge Congress, Administration: Welcome Refugees

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 1, 2015 — In letters today, the Evangelical Immigration Table urges Congress and the Obama administration to welcome refugees and significantly increase the number of refugees the country admits in the next fiscal year.

“The United States of America has a proud history of welcoming refugees, and local churches have long been eager partners in the process of integration. As evangelical Christians, our faith compels us to respond with compassion and hospitality, recognizing that each is made in God’s image and is a neighbor whom God commands us to love,” the letters state. “ … We are calling upon our government to do more.”

The full letters are available here.

The following are quotes from Table leaders:

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals:

“When others are in desperate need, we remember Jesus’ golden rule to treat others as we would want to be treated. Let’s rescue refugees. It’s the Christian thing to do.”

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief:

“World Relief has worked with local church partners throughout the nation to resettle more than 250,000 refugees since the late 1970s. As the world faces the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, we are ready and eager to do all that we can to welcome and help integrate those fleeing persecution. At this unique moment in history, we challenge our generous nation to do more, and we challenge each local church throughout the country to commit to welcoming a refugee family.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO and President, Christian Community Development Association:

“The current refugee crisis drives home the urgent need for leaders at home and abroad to work together to address the needs surrounding migration. People are leaving their countries of origin to flee poverty, violence and war, making migration a necessity for survival, not a sin. We need to look at the root causes of our current crisis and work together to create sustainable solutions that work for those who are migrating and for those who are receiving them.”

Bishop Jose Garcia, Director of Church Relations, Bread for the World:

“Throughout history the United States has been a ‘city of refuge’ for countless immigrants escaping political persecution and oppression. As a nation ‘under God’ we have the faith and moral imperative to become the hands and heart of God by reaching out and welcoming the stranger.”

Shirley V. Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities:

“The United States has been blessed with such an abundance of resources that we have the opportunity to bless others. We have the educational and employment opportunities that allow refugees to contribute in meaningful ways to the United States and to fulfill their God-given potential. Increasing the number of refugees is consistent with our biblical mandate to take care of the least of these.”

Dr. Russell Moore, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

“These millions of refugees, fleeing the most brutal kinds of persecution and oppression, are some of our world’s most vulnerable and defenseless people. Over and over again in Scripture we see that God has an interest in whether or not the sojourner, the orphan, and the widow are treated with compassion and care. By welcoming those whose religious and personal liberties have been trampled on by tyrants, we can embody our conviction that all people are made in the image of God, whether they are without a family, a home, or a country.”

Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/CONELA:

“Our greatest strength as a people lies in our God-graced ability to save lives. When the world cries out for help, we respond. Accordingly, this current refugee crisis requires our nation, this proverbial ‘city on a hill,’ to shine the light of compassion once again. Let us open our hearts and homes to the suffering and those fleeing destruction. Let us ‘be light’ once again.”

Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and President, Sojourners:

“When people are in such great trouble and fear that they leave their homes with no place to go, the test of loving our neighbors—as Jesus tells us to do—is to welcome them with compassion, grace, and love—without political considerations. The Pope has asked the churches to take in the ‘strangers’ from Syria. Catholic or not, it is time for Christians everywhere to respond.”

Robert Zachritz, Vice President, Advocacy & Government Relations, World Vision US:

“It can be hard during a time of crisis to have a response of love instead of fear. Scriptures admonish us to love the refugee in our midst.”

 

 

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