This statement was lovingly written by Soft Landing Missoula board member, Pastor Daniel Disch, to demonstrate wide support in the Missoula Faith Community for the continuation of refugee resettlement in Missoula, MT and additionally signed by 13 other leaders from various faith backgrounds. It is a beautiful example of an essential tie that binds us all; the tie of taking care of our fellow (wo)man. Thank you Daniel for your service and commitment to the world’s most vulnerable.
Dear Missoula County Commissioners,
“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)
“Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life, cultivate boundless love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos.” (Metta Sutta)
In the Hebrew scriptures, the instruction to care for the stranger is mentioned 36 times, more than any other commandment, underscoring the gravity of this teaching. The experience of being outsiders sensitizes the Jewish people to the plight of immigrants and refugees of all cultures. Jews are obligated to heed the outcry of the oppressed everywhere and to welcome those who flee from persecution.
The story of the Nativity of Jesus in the gospels, which we celebrate at Christmas, sees the Holy Family traveling to a town from whence their ancestors came. When they arrive, they find no place to stay; no relative, no inn will accept them. No one will welcome them as they are told there is no room. One person, a local businessman in the hospitality industry, recognizes their need and offers them shelter and safety.
Later in the story, when violence erupts, and the infant Jesus is in danger, the Holy Family goes on a long and arduous journey to another land to find a home, led there by God. In these stories, Christians see God’s presence and identification with humanity: with the plight of the displaced and vulnerable, and with the generosity of neighbors, where life is transformed in hope. Welcome is holy.
The Buddha taught that suffering exists, there is a cause of suffering and there is a way to end suffering. The Buddha also recognized that our own suffering is not separate from the suffering of others, nor is the end of our suffering possible without the end of others’ suffering. When we consider the suffering that results from loss of family, home and culture as refugees leave their homes, our hearts open and compassionate action becomes as reflexive as that of a mother caring for her only child. In other words we can’t help but extend our hearts and hands to ease suffering and offer healing.
Religious traditions and faiths around the world, including those in Montana, share love of and concern for the welfare of one’s neighbor as a central tenet. It is often when this seems the hardest – when neighbors are strangers, when relatives disagree, when changes seem threatening, when fears of shortage rise – the voice of divine hospitality calls and challenges us the most. It is our experience that citizens of the Five Valleys hold these values and practices dearly and seriously, especially in the face of need.
As faith leaders, we urge county and municipal leaders in Missoula County to continue to support the work of love and community in receiving refugees. Members and neighbors of faith communities are already giving of their time, money, and gifts to make known the dignity, integrity, and welcome that Montana has to offer. We have already done this together with our Hmong, Belarussian, and Ukrainian friends and relatives; we are doing this now with new Americans from other places, many of whom are fellow members in our own houses of worship, and our neighborhoods.
We commend to fellow residents of Missoula County hospitality for one another across political or ideological differences, respect and genuine regard, and the rich blessings of life together on the land of the Salish on which we reside.
In peace and gratitude,
Rev. Daniel Disch
Atonement Lutheran Church
Rabbi Laurie Franklin
Congregation Har Shalom
Dharmacharya Greg Grallo
Open Way Sanga
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Missoula
Rev. Laura Folkwein
University Congregational Church
Rev. Chris Flohr
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Rev. John Daniels
First United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Yocum
University Congregational Church
Rev. Gretchen Strohmaier
Holy Spirit Episcopal
Rev. Barry Padget
United Methodist Church, retired
Rev. Stacey Siebrasse
Missoula Interfaith Collaborative
Rev. Molly Sasser-Goehner
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Rev. Terri Grotzinger
Holy Spirit Episcopal Church
Rev. Dan Dixson
Partners in Home Care Hospice
Rev. John Lund
Emmaus Campus Ministry