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NCC’s Edgar says racism at heart of anti-immigrant climate 

Omaha, Neb.—June 6, 2006—The newest wave of immigrants to the United States is “encountering racism masquerading as ‘national security’ or ‘those who are taking our jobs’,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar in an opinion column in today’s Omaha World-Herald newspaper. 

“Our northern European ancestors could fit in much more easily.  They were white,” wrote Dr. Edgar, general secretary, National Council of Churches USA.  “For sure, the Irish and the Italians and the Germans all experienced discrimination, some of it pretty harsh.  But they didn’t qualify for racial discrimination,” Edgar wrote. 

He pointed to the horrible treatment of Asians and Africans in our immigration history and acknowledged the church did not always stand with the newly arrived immigrants in our country despite several references in the bible regarding the treatment of the “resident alien.” 

 “’The alien who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself...,’ says the writer of Leviticus (19:34),” wrote Edgar.  “Those who have crafted the current legislation in Congress to criminalize millions of people seem to have forgotten why their ancestors came here,” he wrote.  

Nebraska, like many states, has seen a large influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants in recent years.  Many work in the meat-packing plants across the state.   

“It wasn’t too many years ago that Nebraskans worshipped in Danish, German, Polish and Norwegian, to say nothing of Latin,” Edgar pointed out.  “And you could find two or three different Lutheran churches in many small Nebraska towns.  They were separated not by theology but by the language of the immigrants who lived there.” 

Edgar concluded his commentary suggesting to U.S. citizens, “We are being called to celebrate these new Americans and incorporate them into the fabric of the multi-colored quilt that is America.”  

The NCC’s 35 member communions are a snapshot of America’s immigrant history.  Most of those churches, with 45 million members today, find their origins in one immigrant group or another.  They have all worshipped in many languages.  Some still do. 

“As people of faith, if we truly believe the words of the prophet Jeremiah,” Edgar wrote, “then we will live more fully into the covenant with God:  ‘...if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien...’ then God will dwell with us ‘in this place forever and ever.’”   


NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, dwebster@councilofchurches.org


 

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