Religious leaders in Maine on Sunday and Monday condemned President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim nations.
Bishop Robert Deeley, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, called on everyone to show “our concern and solidarity” for immigrants and refugees in Maine.
“As it has for the past 40 years and in keeping with Catholic social teaching, the Diocese of Portland stands behind the Refugee and Immigration Services program of Catholic Charities of Maine, which helps individuals and families who flee from violence and come to America seeking compassion, care, stability and peace,” Deeley said in statement issued Sunday night. “Extending ourselves to refugees is particularly important in Maine, where jobs and opportunities await their presence and contributions.”
Catholic Charities is the agency that resettles refugees in Maine.
The new Republican president on Friday ordered a four-month hold on allowing any refugees into the United States, indefinitely barred refugees from Syria, and imposed a 90-day ban on citizens traveling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Eight rabbis from around Maine signed onto a statement shared Sunday on social media that also criticized Trump’s executive order.
“Our Jewish tradition teaches that every individual was created in the image of God,” it said. “We must not turn our backs to the suffering of individuals who have fled horrific violence, and who continue to be in extreme peril.”
The statement was signed by the following rabbis: Erica Asch of Augusta, Carolyn Braun of Portland, Struli Dresdner of Auburn, David Freidenreich of Waterville, Rachel Isaacs of Waterville, Darah Lerner of Bangor, Jared Saks of South Portland and Bill Siemers of Bangor.
“Jewish history bears witness to the critical choice facing our country: whether to rescue those in need or to construct barriers to keep them out,” the rabbis said. “Jews have seen America at its best, and we know what it looks like for our country to provide the chance at a new beginning. In generations past, our families were given opportunities to gain education, join the workforce, and become part of building our great nation.
“But we also know what it looks like for America to turn its back on refugees,” the statement continued. “We have seen xenophobia overwhelm our nation’s capacity for compassion, and we have seen the doors slam shut in our greatest hours of need. Severe restrictions kept countless Jewish immigrants in danger, and too many people faced death in Europe after being turned away from these shores.”
On Monday, the Maine Council of Churches, made up of nine denominations representing more than 550 local congregations, issued a press release describing the order as an assault on religious freedom.
“As people of faith, we are called by our sacred texts and traditions to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the stranger, regardless of their religion,” said the Rev. Jane Field, executive director of the council.
“Our faith compels us to pray that in our nation’s discernment, compassion for the plight of refugees and immigrants will touch our leaders’ hearts,” she said. “And our faith compels us to act to ensure that our government chooses moral, just and compassionate policies.”
Carroll Conley, executive director for the Christian Civic League of Maine in Augusta, said Monday in an email that he agrees with “the executive order’s call to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution.”
Conley said he agreed with how Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, closed his letter to Trump about the refugee order. The letter, in which Moore expressed concern for the safety of Christians working in Muslim countries, was published Monday in the Washington Post.
“I like Russell Moore’s quote in his letter to Trump today where he asked the president to ‘affirm your administration’s commitment to religious freedom and the inalienable human dignity of persecuted people whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Yazidi, or other and adjust the executive order as necessary,’” Conley said.
Moore also called on the president to resolve the status of green card holders and Iraqi military interpreters and “to implement additional screening measures in order that the Refugee Admission Program may be resumed as soon as possible, including for refugees from Syria.”