Religious leaders urge NJ residents to welcome Syrian refugees ‘with hospitality’
As the debate continues in Washington over how to handle the influx of Syrian refugees into the United States, some New Jersey religious leaders are calling for re-settlement efforts in the Garden State to continue.
The topic was discussed during an interfaith roundtable organized by Congressman Frank Pallone on Monday, at the Reformed Church of Highland Park.
The pastor of the church, the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, who also heads up the Central Jersey Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Highland Park and New Brunswick, said the next step in this process “is to continue to settle refugees lovingly and with great hospitality, we want the people who come into our state to feel loved upon entrance here."
He said next week, his church “will be getting an apartment completely outfitted in Paterson for a Syrian family that will be coming in just after Thanksgiving.”
Greg Bezilla, pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in South River, believes the time has come for “people of good will and faith to gather together and to respond to the fear that is so pervasive in our media today and our wider culture, and to be voices of hope and to open wide our arms in hospitality and welcome.”
He said this is what our faith tradition teaches us.
“I’m urging my congregation to look into our scriptures and to see there a message of welcome and hospitality to strangers, to immigrants, to refugees," Bezill said. "We have opportunities to open our doors, open our hearts, welcome people in, they become our neighbors, and we become peace-makers in our world.”
Rabbi Phillip Bazeley of the Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick said many different faith-based religions speak of urgency “of the care for the needy, the oppressed, the stranger, the orphan and the poor, and this issue is very important."
"wWen I look at the scene of American life right now, it appears to me that we’re standing on the threshold of re-determining what it is our core values are as Americans," the rabbi said. “There is no issue greater than the plight of the refugee right now and also how we respond to the refugee, that will determine who we are as a nation.”
Reverend Kaper-Dale said it’s important to remember that less than 90 Syrian refugees have settled in Jersey since 2012, and all of them were carefully screened.
“Half of them are children, so we have something like 40 parents right now receiving the fear and the deep kind of consternation of the whole state of New Jersey, and I’m sure they’re just so concerned about their children, and how their children are received in school, and whether their neighbors are going to suddenly think they’re terrorists,” Kaper-Dale said.
He insisted the refugees have been cleared “by five forms of our government’s security system in order to come here in the first place, and I really think that the role of the faith community is just to continue to show love and hospitality right now.”
According to Pastor Bezilla “this is the best way to prevent a terrorist attack, is by opening our doors wide, showing people our spirit. This is only way forward to respond to the violence and threats of violence in our world today.”
Those attending the roundtable included also included Pastor Shika, Trinity United Methodist Church, Judy Richman, Co-Chair, Highland Park Minyan, Shahid Farooqi, Northeast Outreach Director, ICNA Relief USA, Mustafa Tabanli, on behalf of Peace Islands Institute, Hakan Gok, on behalf of Embrace Relief and Ali Chaudry, former Mayor of Basking Ridge.