Letter to Kalamazoo City Commission from the Christian Clergy

February 1, 2016

Dear Mayor Hopewell, Vice-Mayor Cooney, and City Commissioners of Kalamazoo:

The moral imperative to welcome refugees, migrant workers, and other strangers in need can be found throughout the pages of the Bible. In the book of Genesis, God called the patriarch Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Several generations later, severe famine forced Abraham’s descendants to relocate to the land of Egypt. While they were initially welcomed into that country, Abraham’s descendants were eventually labeled as a threat to national security by a racist government that subjected them to policies of forced labor and genocide.

In response to these crimes against humanity, God raised up Moses as a liberator, who led the people of Israel to a new life in a land of freedom. Along the way, God gave the Israelites a new command to ensure that the atrocities of Egypt would never be repeated by Abraham’s descendants. God said, “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ continues this ethical tradition in his teaching:

Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
His followers asked, “Lord, when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?”
Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
(Matthew 25:31-46)

Based on these and many other passages of sacred scripture, we the clergy of Kalamazoo believe it is our bounden Christian duty to open the doors of our community to offer hospitality and assistance to these our fellow human beings. They are now arriving on the shores this country, fleeing death by violence or starvation. They come to us from many directions, bringing with them a brilliant rainbow of many different languages, skin tones, cultural traditions, and religious beliefs. They come asking only that we acknowledge their inalienable right to exist.

Sadly, there are many voices at work in this country and in the state of Michigan who would use this humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to garner power for themselves. They use the same slanderous political tactics employed by Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. They manipulate the fears of the general populace with the specter of terrorism. Their xenophobia and lust for power has led them to blatant disregard for the lives of fellow human beings in need.

As Christians, we call upon the leadership of Kalamazoo to resist these lies, heeding instead the cry of the poor and the biblical command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31)

Congregations stand ready to work together in sponsoring, welcoming, and assisting refugee families of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. We need the support of this city’s leadership in order to fulfill our Christian calling and honor the inclusive values that make our city, state, and country so great. We strongly urge the City Commission of Kalamazoo to adopt the attached resolution.

Sincerely,

The Rev. J. Barrett Lee, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Nathan Dannison, United Church of Christ

The Rev. Sarah Schmidt-Lee, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Andrew Tengwall, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Matt Weiler, United Methodist Church

Pastor Strick Strickland, Sr., Second Baptist Church

The Rev. Dr. Randall Warren, The Episcopal Church

The Rev. Mary VanAndel, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Dr. Seth Weeldreyer, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Elizabeth Candido, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Sara Dorrien-Christians, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Dr. John Best, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Ruth Moerdyk, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Rev. Kurt Kremlick, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Nelson Lumm, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Kathleen Robertson King, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. David Moffett-Moore, United Church of Christ

The Rev. Bob Bond, Metropolitan Community Church

The Rev. Lawrence Farris, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. David Nichols, American Baptist Churches

RESOLUTION AFFIRMING THAT THE CITY OF KALAMAZOO
IS A WELCOMING COMMUNITY AND RESPECTS THE INNATE DIGNITY OF ALL PEOPLE

January 2016

WHEREAS, the City of Kalamazoo community remembers, honors, and values our immigrant and migrant roots, and embraces the values of family, faith, and hard work; and,

WHEREAS, the City of Kalamazoo has long been home to immigrants from around the world, who come seeking opportunity, stability, prosperity, and a better life for their families. The City of Kalamazoo is home to many immigrants who come from regions such as the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. The city’s diverse communities consist of first and second generation immigrants as well as African-Americans who have historically migrated from the southern United States; and,

WHEREAS, the Welcoming Kalamazoo initiative aims to build cooperation, respect, and compassion among all in our community, including immigrants and non-immigrants alike; endeavors to create an atmosphere in which international students, immigrants, and refugees have increased opportunities to integrate into the social fabric of their adopted hometowns; and seeks to embrace diversity while retaining unique cultural identities; and,

WHEREAS, the City of Kalamazoo community has long been recognized as a hospitable and welcoming place, where people, families, and institutions thrive and the contributions of all are celebrated and valued. Residents of the City of Kalamazoo live up to our highest American values of acceptance and equality, and treat newcomers with decency and respect, creating a vibrant community for all to live in; and,

WHEREAS, the City of Kalamazoo community is committed to building a diverse, inclusive, and global city and will continue to provide a neighborly and welcoming atmosphere, where all are respected and accepted. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT

RESOLVED, by the Kalamazoo City Commission on [DATE] that the City of Kalamazoo is affirmed as a place where all foreign-born and native-born Americans can live, work, and play together; share in each other’s customs and ideals, and appreciate and promote cultural diversity.

We urge residents and stakeholders of the City of Kalamazoo community to join with the efforts and spirit of the Welcoming Michigan initiative and join in lifting up the City of Kalamazoo as a welcoming environment for all.

This Welcoming Resolution is put forth and supported by:

Members of the Welcoming Michigan Kalamazoo Leadership Committee

Eliminating Racism & Claiming/Celebrating Equality (ERACCE)

The mission of ERACCE is to dismantle systemic racism and build antiracist multicultural diversity within Southwest Michigan institutions by providing education, networking, technical assistance and supportive resources to the region.

FAIR FOOD MATTERS

The mission of Fair Food Matters is to improve access to healthy, local food by educating, connecting, and empowering the Kalamazoo community.

Hispanic American Council

The Hispanic American Council is a nonprofit community organization established to advocate for the well-being of the Hispanic population in Southwest Michigan.

Welcoming Michigan

Welcoming Michigan is a statewide initiative of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center working to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans.

Fellow Community Partners

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