Christians who gathered for worship on Sunday push back against an executive order excluding all refugees and immigrants from some mostly Muslim countries
With song, prayer and tears, some Christians pushed back Sunday against President Trump’s executive order on immigration, declaring it does not represent who they are or their faith.
“I am sad and shocked,” said Deacon Pierce Murphy of Christ Our Hope Catholic Church in downtown Seattle, after a Sunday Mass in which he preached the Beatitudes from the Bible, and its teachings of love, peacemaking and mercy.
“We are to bring hope to the poor, mercy to those who need it and to be peacemakers,” Murphy said.
“We are called to seek out those who are least, without a country, a home, we are to show God’s mercy, no matter what.”
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He called the executive order from President Trump banning refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries “unconscionable.”
The order imposes a four-month ban on all refugees trying to enter the U.S., and excludes all Syrian refugees until further notice. Additionally, it bans the citizens of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. on a visa. Those countries are Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.
The executive order was swiftly denounced by religious leaders from around the country.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a prepared statement Friday “We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope.”
Church World Services, a global humanitarian organization and one of nine refugee- resettlement agencies in the U.S., representing Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches and dozens of local resettlement offices across the U.S., issued a statement Friday denouncing the order.
Meanwhile in Seattle on Sunday morning, some churchgoers shook their heads with dismay. A few were moved to tears of distress over the policy, which some said violated their deepest ethics both as Christians and as citizens.
Pete Mills, of Seattle, called the executive order “just sad.”
“As Catholics, we have faced persecution, and many of us were immigrants, pushed out. The way forward is through love. Not tearing us apart.”
He worried that the executive order would backfire and make the world more violent and unstable, not safer.
“Safety isn’t advanced by getting rid of people that don’t look like you. In fact I am worried it will make people less safe.”
The order did not reflect his values as a Christian, or an American, Mills said. “We are better than that.”
Paul Magnano, pastor at Christ Our Hope, called for pushback against the president.
“We have to challenge where he is off base, stand up,” Magnano said. “Stand up for what’s right, be open, supportive, but challenge it.”
Charlie Wallblom, 73, said that what hurt him most was the houses and jobs that were awaiting refugees due shortly to arrive. “The houses are empty and the jobs are not filled; now we are saying they can’t come?’’ Wallblom said. “That is not what America is.”
Sister Joyce Cox of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary said that without immigrants, much of the necessary work of Washington would not get done. “They are picking berries. Tomatoes. Doing jobs people here won’t do,” Cox said. “ We are a refugee country. We always have been.” She called Trump’s order “madness.”
On vacation from California, Alicia and Jorge Nocum stopped at Christ Our Church for services. They immigrated to this country legally from the Philippines in the 1970s and have since brought 68 family members here through immigration petition processes that take decades.
They said they support an immigration process with rules and respect for the law. But they don’t agree with shutting borders. “This is the best land of opportunity,” Alicia Nocum said. “People should be given a chance.”
Outrage wasn’t confined to the church pews.
In the very secular world of state elected officials, 16 attorneys general — including Washington’s Bob Ferguson and others who represent states that went to Trump — condemned the order as “un-American” and vowed action, according to a news release from New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. a
The joint statement was issued by attorney generals from New York, Washington, California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois, New Mexico, Iowa, Maine, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
“As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful executive order,” the attorneys general wrote.
They also vowed to “work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution and respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith.”
The order stirred confusion among educators, employers and some students, who scrambled to return home or reunite with the families before the borders closed.
“It’s terrifying. My Muslim students are scared to death,” said Richard Alishio, an English as a second language instructor at both North Seattle College and the University of Washington.
“We have … Libyan and Yemeni students in our programs. They can’t leave the country at this point because they probably can’t come back.”
Alishio said a co-worker, who is a permanent U.S. resident, left last week for a funeral in Iran. It’s not clear to him if she can return.
“If she’s not coming back, we’ll be scrambling,” he said.
The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project was staffing Sea-Tac Airport to defend arriving travelers Sunday. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington also set up an emergency email contact for travelers affected by the ban, or Washington residents with plans to travel and are concerned could be affected by the ban.
That email address is travel@aclu-wa