GUEST POST: Legislator Urges Montanans to Welcome Refugees

By Christine Kaufman,  Montana State Senator from Helena

A week before the Paris attacks, I was on the Greek Island of Lesbos, volunteering alongside young people from across Europe, welcoming overloaded rafts of refugees to safety.  Up to 5,000 a day were attempting the treacherous crossing. We served wet, cold families tea and soup and distributed dry clothing.  As I considered what I was thankful for this season, I thought of those fellow humans who have been forced from their country and homes, given up their professions and possessions, and risked death crossing the Aegean Sea with their children.

I met them for one small interlude somewhere toward the beginning of their long journey to find a place of safety to begin to build a new life.  I fear their journey has gotten longer and less safe in recent weeks.  Increasingly they are met with suspicion, fear, and outright hostility and hatred.

In far-away Montana, when our Governor put out a soft statement attempting to calm fears, saying Montana would make sure all protocols were in order to safely accept refugees, he was met with a barrage of anger from some Montanans. I was saddened and ashamed that 55 of my Republican colleagues in the Legislature added to this chorus with a letter urging the governor “not to facilitate admission of any Syrian refugees” in Montana.

Couched in a hollow show of sympathy for refugees and equally hollow praise for Montanans’ generosity and welcoming spirit, the author of the letter knows exactly how to play on the suspicions and fear of terrorism for political gain.  He knows well the arduous and lengthy federal screening process refugees must go through before admittance into the USA.  He is well aware that no governor can place independent barriers to the flow of particular people into any state. It was a shameful piece of propaganda.

Refugees are fleeing because their lives are at risk from ISIS’ barbarous attacks and our bombing raids. Rejecting refugees only increases the power of ISIS and reinforces their narrative that the West is a bad place and we are bad people.  Rejecting refugees violates our values and humanitarian obligation enshrined on the statue of liberty.  “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, … Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me…”

Rejecting refugees runs directly counter to the faith teachings that many of us espouse.  Indeed, Jesus provided a litmus test for faithfulness in Matthew 25 based on our treatment of those who are hungry and homeless. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance… For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, . . .whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I beg you to remember that terrorism has no religion.  Islam is no more related to ISIS than Christianity is to the Ku Klux Klan, or the Aryan Nation.  The Paris attackers were extremists acting in perversion of the Muslim faith, just as Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who killed 168 Americans in the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, were extremists acting in perversion of the Christian faith.  Just as those who attack health clinics that offer abortions are extremists acting in perversion of the Christian faith.

I beg you to remember the most shameful periods of our history and not repeat them.  When Europeans came here as refugees and committed well-documented atrocities against our native population; when Montanans participated in interning Japanese refugees and U.S. citizens in concentration camps; when Montana passed the broadest, harshest and most notorious sedition law and imprisoned scores of Montana citizens of German descent for making comments critical of the war.

I beg you to remember our shared humanity in this time of turmoil.



36 Comments on "GUEST POST: Legislator Urges Montanans to Welcome Refugees"

  1. Brava, Sen. Kaufman. The Billings Gazette published my letter to the editor noting that the French bear much of the blame for the attacks; they have systematically kept Muslim refugees from enjoying full French citizenship, but we too — all of us except Native Americans – have shirked our own historical duty to accept and help – no, welcome – the people who make our country spiritually, culturally and economically strong.

  2. Brava, Sen. Kaufman. The Billings Gazette published my letter to the editor noting that the French bear much of the blame for the attacks; they have systematically kept Muslim refugees from enjoying full French citizenship, but we too — all of us except Native Americans – have shirked our own historical duty to accept and help – no, welcome – the people who make our country spiritually, culturally and economically strong.

  3. Christine, your accurate contention that terrorism has no religion should be obvious, but I have never heard it expressed so well. It diffuses all of the hyperbolic rhetoric from the haters, Thanks

  4. The world is a troubling place, full of suffering and pain and injustice. But Jesus never said it would be easy to follow his path. He showed the way and was clear about what is expected, and he foretold about the hypocrites who would claim to follow his example, but through fear and selfishness would fall short.

    It doesn’t matter if one is a professed Christian (I am not) to be able to respond in a moral, empathetic way to human suffering. Jesus didn’t want his followers to act out of timidity or self-preservation. He wanted his followers to put it all on the line to help people less fortunate. In assessing the letter written by the fearful fifty-five, anyone can see they are not leaders, they are politically craven cowerers, and are not offering anything to address this problem.

    Yes, we have problems in our State, and people who need help. That never goes away. That said, the small number of needy refugees that might end up in Montana will not diminish our ability to help those we help now. I want to be proud of my State and our leaders who will respond to these people who, through no fault of their own, fled to protect the lives of their children.

  5. Well done. Very well done.

  6. “I beg you to remember that terrorism has no religion.”

    In this instance, you are wrong. The terrorists committing atrocities from Paris to California to Boston have all been Muslims. Have you seen a Buddist or a Christian holding up somebody’s severed head on TV?

    The terrorists all claim to be muslim, and even though The Great Leader says that they’re not ‘true’ muslims the facts seem to be against him.

    Let Europe take the invaders (refugees).

  7. BTW I only posted that first reply once-why five entries here?

  8. Thanks, Christine. As always, good to hear from you. Thanks. As for the audience on this blog: Why are commonsense people so marginalized these days? If we can believe what’s been passed down over the millennia, Jesus would have been the first guy to take one look at the mess we’re making with our 21st century discourses and declare (if they hadn’t nailed him to a water board or something beforehand) that we should all run away from any evangelical religion no matter what flavor as fast as our little feet could fly. He (if we can believe what’s been passed down) was fundamentally against bigotry. Humanity’s curse, his premiere gig. Unfortunately, many people today, including some on this post, haven’t gotten the message after a mere two thousand years or so. What a complicated world we insist upon. Why don’t we just evolve or something?

  9. Well said, Geoff. And apologies to Bob Peterson. As someone else has pointed out, it was another post above Bob’s to which I was reacting.
    Dave Grimland

  10. Paris Attacks

    “All three gunmen who attacked the venue wearing suicide vests have been confirmed as French nationals.”

    “two of the Stade de France attackers were believed to have come to Europe via the Greek island of Leros and may have been posing as Syrian refugees.”

    • Don Trump and Fred Thomas knew of this a month ago:

      The proposed new vetting process in our USA.
      Diminish the role of the State Department also the United Nations!! Increase power of three Federal departments. Two of them called; FBI, Homeland Security. Let any of the three departments, have veto power on the proposed new vetting process, it quickly designed by collective effort.

  11. All Muslims may not be terrorist’s w/a desire to replace the worlds laws w/Sharia Law…but all terrorist attacks and the emphasis on Sharia Law becoming the law of the land have been Muslims…Islam is not a religion it is a political system veiled w/violent and extreme religious laws…subjection of women,murder of homosexuals,killing Christians,keeping and trading slaves etc. understanding the Koran and the Hadith will give insight on these issues…Muslim immigrants will not be a positive addition to Montana.

    • Using your logic the large majority of “terrorist” murders in the US for the last 10 years have been by white Christians, therefore any Christians would be unwelcome immigrants for Montana. And I assume you will be moving soon? You Christians have been terrorizing us for 2000 years, when will you go back where you came from and leave us Pantheists alone?

      • Your comment is a definite result of receiving your ‘spiritual wisdom’ from trees, rocks and the like.

        • Yes, the Earth and the animals that inhabit it, you are right. and if you “Christians” don’t start respecting our Mother and learning from Her we will all soon be extinct. Our tenancy is but a blink of an eye in the span of years dinosaurs ruled the planet-surely we can do better than they did? But when you are convinced your imaginary friend is going to show up any day and whisk you off to your very own planet it’s hard to give a shit about the one you have now. Problem is that there IS NO PLANET B.

          • There are so many ways to intemperate a comment…You could have read mine as a positive statement but as most easily bruised and offended Liberals you defined it as criticism…it really does’t matter we humans are ‘hardwired’ for ultimately destroying ourselves and unfortunately numerous other species…a brief overview of our occupation of this planet exhibits massive data to prove this point. BTW best in the coming year…and i’m no where near a Christian!

        • Also I might point out that human animals are the only species that will prey on another to the point of extinction. Maybe it’s fitting a bug of some kind ends up killing us all.

    • You’re 7 Times More Likely To Be Killed By A Conservative Terrorist Than A Muslim Extremist!
      Where do you get your Information on Muslims from WG? Because White extremist christians are 2 1/2 times more violent in killing people in the USA than Muslims.

      Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

      In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’sCombating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

      Other data sets, using different definitions of political violence, tell comparable stories. The Global Terrorism Database maintained by the Start Center at the University of Maryland includes 65 attacks in the United States associated with right-wing ideologies and 24 by Muslim extremists since 9/11. The International Security Program at the New America Foundation identifies 39 fatalities from “non-jihadist” homegrown extremists and 26 fatalities from “jihadist” extremists.

      I am pretty sick of people on the right spewing Complete Fabrications about syrian refugees.

      • When their kicking in your door you might have a change of heart and mind…you progressive liberals fall for the party line that Syrian Muslims are just misunderstood nice folk’s. Good luck w/that.

        • Find a doctor for the fear you’re feeling, fed by all the nonsense from the far right. and learn how to goosestep if your gonna be voting for the GOP, they look like they’ve already turned the corner to fascism…..

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