One of the advantages of being a little older is that one can REALLY say what one thinks, with considerably less concern for the professional consequences than one might have had in ones youth.... We got quite a tongue-lashing at church today from our pastor, who is a short time from retirement.
His beef today was with the response of Canadians--including some from within our congregation--to Muslims in general and Muslim refugees in particular, many of them co-victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
Our discussions about "those" people -- both online and IRL--were often fear based and disrespectful, he pointed out, as he recounted some of the embarrassingly negative commentary he'd been hearing through the rumour mill and reading online in social media across Canada.
"We should not be slowing down our welcome to refugees in this country because of our fear of the people whom they, too, are fleeing." He admonished us. After all, one would surmise that the thousands of Syrians currently on the move are at least as traumatized by terrorism as is the west. They are coming to us for help, not to be feared and discriminated against!
In particular, Rev. Hawkes (who recently published a Ted Talk) admonished those in the congregation who have historically been biased against refugees because they only come once a month and do not "stay" with our church after they gain official refugee status. "Some will choose to stay and become bridge builders with us", noted Hawkes, "Others will simply cross the bridge here and move on in their journey."
He encouraged us to take up the challenge of offering a warm, welcoming place of peace and recovery to those who need it, whether they originate here or come from away. Whether people come sometimes or often, whether they stay for a short time or join the community on a more long term basis, "all are welcome" means, just that. And, we ought to remember that moto of our church as we think carefully what we write in social media.
Hawkes' message was well-received by many in the congregation. Hopefully his admonishment will encourage those of us who needed it to work towards overcoming our fears, and return to modeling the welcoming ways that attracted us to the community when we needed a warm, non-judgmental welcome!