Early Monday morning, 55 Central American asylum-seekers were delivered to three Denver, Colorado houses of worship through the auspices of several not-for-profit agencies. They were bused in from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they had been dumped on the streets because regional immigration facilities are bursting at the seams. President Donald Trump’s threat to relocate refugees to communities declaring themselves to be “sanctuaries” has begun. This poses some challenging questions for citizens and houses of worship in Rhode Island.
It is quite likely that groups of asylum-seekers, who have come to the United States to escape the threat of violence in their homelands, will soon be arriving in our state. What will we do when they get here? Will our houses of worship open their doors to provide at least temporary shelter for these neighbors in need? Will Rhode Islanders then welcome individuals or families into their homes, offering them a secure base from which they can begin to rebuild their lives?
In this current era of divisiveness and bigotry, I find myself thinking of the thousands of sung and unsung heroes who sheltered Jewish refugees during the Nazi Holocaust. I also think of the thousands more who did nothing to stem the tide of hatred in that day. The time for our questioning is now – which side of this historical moment are we willing to be a part of? The time for our action, from individuals and houses of worship, lies just ahead.