Minnesota faith leaders denounce Trump's immigration ban

Imam Abdisalam Adam
Imam Abdi Adam says people in his Minneapolis mosque are grateful to the United States for providing them refuge.
Doualy Xaykaothao | MPR News file

Leaders of churches, mosques and synagogues met in Minneapolis Monday to condemn President Donald Trump's executive order on refugees and immigration.

The faith leaders said the ban, which temporarily bars travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and halts refugee admissions for 120 days, violates the core principles of their religions.

Imam Abdi Adam, of the Islamic Civic Society of America, said people in his Minneapolis mosque are grateful to the United States for providing them refuge. They have a long history of peaceful co-existence with neighbors of all faiths, Adam said, but Trump's order has left members of his mosque feeling insecure in their adopted home.

"I see communities who are crying: students in schools who are not sure of what the next step will be, elders who are toward the end of their lives, but have expectations and high hopes for their families," Adam said. "What can we do?"

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Adam and other Minnesota religious leaders in Minnesota said they oppose Trump's order because they fear it may be the first of many policies that could make life harder for refugees and immigrants.

Faith groups condemning the executive order Monday said they represent the vast majority of religious institutions in the state. They included Muslims and Jews, as well as Christians from evangelical, Lutheran, Catholic and other denominations.

Hospitality to strangers is a core biblical principle, said United Methodist Church Bishop Bruce Ough.

"When we fail to assist the refugees fleeing danger, we do not only place them in harm's way, we do harm to our own souls," he said. "When we build walls of concrete or walls of divisive rhetoric, or walls of fear, or walls of immoral immigrant policies, we build a wall around our own souls."

The Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, said some Christian Americans have allowed fear and misinformation to guide their opinions on refugees.

"We confess, that there have been times when we were so afraid of our own neighbor, that we teetered on the precipice of violating our deep values," Chemberlin said. "We will stand and say, 'We will not give into that temptation.'"

Rabbi Morris Allen, of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, said Jews and others who have faced religious persecution have a special obligation to stand with Muslims now.

"We as a people from our foundational texts forward, from the sacred words of our Torah onwards, have internalized not anger and animus towards the world, but hope and responsibility," Allen said. "With the belief that we are to know the heart of the stranger, for we were once, indeed all too often more than once, strangers in a strange land."

The legality of the order is still unclear as lawsuits are filed and attorneys scramble to try to find out how and where the order is being enforced.

But legal maneuvers are just one facet of opposition to the order, said John Keller, director of the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota.

"Even a whole room of lawyers' brains working on these issues, we will not succeed without the moral outrage and clarity that you bring," Keller told faith leaders. "I can't underscore the importance."

Faith leaders said they're speaking to their followers about the importance of supporting refugees, and urging members to get politically active. Imam Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota said it's also an opportunity to reinforce that this is not one religion against another, but all faiths standing together.

"I have great hope in this country and in her people, and I'm greatly proud to be one of them," Zaman said. "That's the consistent message of hope and the need to organize that we are sending across the Muslim community."