Next, because the sacred texts of all the world’s great religions speak of the importance of hospitality to and solidarity with those in need, local faith leaders were asked to share what their faith traditions say about welcoming the stranger.
Dr. Naomi Yavneh, Director of Loyola’s Honors Program and a board member of Touro Synagogue, noted that welcoming the stranger is part of the sacred obligation that Jews have to Tikkun olam-- healing the world. She reminded us that in 1939 when Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were denied entrance to the U.S. our country could not tell the difference between an actual enemy and the victims of an enemy, and not to make the same mistake now.
Reverend Priscilla Maumus, Archdeacon for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, challenged fellow Christians to “dare” to love as Jesus did and to welcome refugees from Syria and elsewhere with courage and compassion.
Imam Abdur Rahman Bashir of the Jefferson Muslim Association, noted that the Prophet Mohammed said that God helps those who help others, and that we should not let anything come between us and those in need.
Sister Maura O’Donovan, CHF, a member of Burning Bush, a collaboration of Catholic sisters and brothers working to end violence, reminded us that the Christmas story is really a refugee story, and that today the Holy Family is being excluded in the persons of thousands of Syrian refugees who hope to find welcome in the “inns” of our hearts.
When Syrian immigrant Dr. Ibrahim Ekaidi described what it was like to lose 43 members of his extended family to the conflict tearing apart Syria and how disappointed he was in the push to ban Syrian refugees, those gathered grew quiet. He concluded, “But (being) with you gives me hope.”
After the group second-lined to the music of a brass band through streets crowded with holiday visitors to Jackson Square, Farah led us in a chant that was also a prayer of welcome. “From sea to shining sea, we welcome thee.” Amen!