Barring Muslims from the US is not what we should be about

The proposal to bar Muslims from entry into the United States of America is one that I find contrary to the teachings of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, very Un-American, dangerous and just plain mean-spirited.

On a personal level, I also find this proposal extremely disturbing for two very personal reasons:

The first personal reason is that I spent 18 years of my adult life as a kind of a migrant in a land where the predominant religion was not my own.   In 1977 I was sent as a Catholic missionary to Japan where less than 1% of the population were Christian. Those years in Japan were extremely rewarding. I was warmly welcomed not only by Christians but by Buddhists and Shintoists alike.

I cringe to think that if the attitudes of fear and distrust I see rampant among many in our country now were present in Japan in the 1970s, I may not have been able to even visit the country, let alone work there for 18 years.

The second personal reason has 4 simple elements:
1.   I am a Roman Catholic and a
2.   third-generation Irish-American.
3.   I am also a native of Philadelphia and
4.   a priest of the Order of St. Augustine, one of the ancient orders of the Catholic Church.

Anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States reached a high point of intensity in Philadelphia in the mid-1840s. After years of friction and hostility between so-called nativist groups and Catholics, anti-Catholic riots broke out on May 6, 1844.

Next day: an Irish fire station and 30 homes of Irish Catholics were burned to the ground.

One day later: mobs attacked and burned two Catholic Churches, St. Michael’s and St. Augustine’s Church, a church established by my Order, the Augustinians in 1796.

St. Augustine’s Church burning 1844.05.08

Early in the 20th century lynch mobs killed Catholic Italians. Among some groups in this country, this sentiment still exists although it is not a virulent as it was before.  Back then, it was a similar sentiment to the kind of Islamophobia today that's led many Americans to call for shutting down mosques, forcing Muslims to register in a national database, and even banning Muslims from entering our country.

As Americans, we must not turn away from the ideals of the founding fathers. While striving for security, we must at the same time strive for freedom – freedom from fear and hatred and ignorance.

For many of us, in this a holy season.  A season when we celebrate the light - the light that the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5, NRSV); we are reminded of God’s desire to give the gift of life – life in abundance for all.
Together with all our brothers and sisters who love God in whatever tradition, and with those who do not believe in any God,
we are committed to building a stronger society based on the dignity of each human being, the value of diversity, the holiness of creation, and the common good.
We pledge our partnership and invite all groups and individuals into continued dialogue and engagement to this end.