Immigrants are the new scapegoats in many modern societies, says a leading Christian figure in the United States. People of faith should be among those seeking a new deal for those displaced and on the move.
The General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCUSA), writing in a guest commentary carried by the Religion Service (RNS) yesterday, contends the "fearmongers among us are devilishly clever.”
He says: “ They have used nearly every scare tactic they can think of to reduce us to a highly suspicious lot all too willing to not love the alien as ourselves and to evict them from their homes, get them fired, separate them from their families, in an all out rampage of oppression and prejudice."
In the commentary, which RNS entitled "White Immigrants Get a Pass; Brown Ones Do Not," Dr Edgar, who has written a book seeking to strengthen the compassionate religious voice in contemporary American politics, points to conservative blogs and certain radio and television talk show hosts who are "trying to scare us."
The RNS commentary points to the numerous verses in the Bible about how to treat migrants. "When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God," Edgar quotes from Leviticus 19.33-34. Similar verses appear in the books of Exodus, Numbers and the Prophet Jeremiah.
He continues: "Demagogues keep preying on post-9/11 fear to whip up hatred and suspicion of people who have come here in search of the same thing my northern European ancestors were seeking," writes Edgar. "They want a better life for their families, more opportunities for their children and to learn English. They already pay millions in taxes and contribute to their communities."
Dr Edgar concludes his RNS commentary incorporating words of the Prophet Jeremiah who warned against oppressing the resident alien: "It seems before God will dwell with us in this land we had better change our ways and 'truly act justly one with another' regardless of where we were born or the color of our skin."
The RNS commentary is available to more than 100 major daily and weekly newspapers including The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times and USA Today. In addition, hundreds of magazines, television stations, religious publications and websites subscribe to RNS.
The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. The NCCUSA denominations have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations in all fifty US states.