Wooster, Ohio congregation writes to John Kerry
WOOSTER, Ohio — In response to a spate of negative reaction towards the resettling of Syrian refugees in the United States, the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Wooster, OH has opened its doors to refugees. In a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry, the Session of the church (its governing body) says that the congregation “sees itself as a sanctuary and hereby volunteers to welcome up to three refugee families from Syria or elsewhere to help them settle in our community.” The letter goes on to characterize the offer as reflective of “our Christian duty to care for the stranger in need and to help the least of these, our siblings.”
Rev. Andries Coetzee, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church and Partnership Chair of the Israel / Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), notes, “As Christians and as part of the human family, we are moved to put our faith into action when we see the unfathomable need of our siblings. It is our duty to remind those in power that we do have a responsibility to care for Syrian refugees, especially as our foreign policy is part of the root cause of the refugee crisis.”
The generosity of the Westminster Presbyterian Church is one among a growing number of actions and statements of solidarity coming from Presbyterians nationwide. On November 18, 2015 the Albany Presbytery, representing 64 congregations and more than 6,000 Presbyterians in upstate New York, passed a resolution for “protection and hospitality” for Syrian refugees. The resolution “call[s] upon our state and national leaders to remember our nation’s commitment to inclusion and choose justice over fear in responding to those affected by the Syrian war.”
Rev. Gradye Parsons, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest national body of Presbyterians, has also issued a statement on the crisis entitled “Choose Welcome, Not Fear.” Rev. Parsons writes, “We must witness to the Gospel with generous hospitality. To hide in fear is a mistake. Fear is the ammunition of terror. Hope is the best defense.”
As prophetic voices continue to be raised from within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and other religious bodies throughout the United States, the Israel/Palestine Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) joins with our sisters and brothers in calling our nation to an ethical response of welcome.
Robert Trawick, Communications Chair IPMN