Our hearts are broken, and we grieve with all those affected by recent attacks at home and abroad. Damascus, Mosul, Paris, Bamako and now San Bernardino are only the latest in a long list of cities experiencing violence committed in the name of faith.
We mourn the tragic loss of human life in San Bernardino. The images and stories of human pain and sorrow, loss and suffering are heart wrenching. Unfortunately, there are those who have seized upon this horrific event as an opportunity to stoke fear and suspicion in our communities. The way in which some here in the United States have singled out Islam as a cause and source of hate is a cause of sorrow and concern for us. This inflammatory rhetoric, by those who seem intent on inciting fear and creating division in our communities for political gain, is dishonorable and should be repudiated by all people of conscience.
We are Christians, and as Christians, we wish to make it clear that we not only see the hatred and bigotry — masquerading as concern for security and safety — directed at the Muslim community, but we are also willing to name this injustice for what it is: an offense against both God and our neighbor. Our scriptures are clear. Anyone who claims to love God and yet hates their sister or brother is a liar and does not know God (see 1 John 4:8-21). There is no room in the heart of a genuine Christian for bigotry or prejudice against any group of people.
In light of the ongoing scapegoating of Muslims following the appalling tragedy in San Bernardino, we feel more strongly than ever that we cannot be silent regarding our opposition to the hateful rhetoric and fear-mongering directed towards you, our Muslim neighbors. Denouncing hatred, however, is not enough; we also wish to be vocal in expressing our respect, appreciation and deep love for you.
We likewise reject attempts to ignore or dismiss the plight of Middle Eastern refugees under the false pretense of national security. Our scriptures teaches us to welcome the stranger, the oppressed and the refugee — to love and care for the least of these as we would love ourselves (see Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:16-19, Matthew 25:31-46). In fact, it is a scriptural imperative for us that we not only treat refugees and strangers fairly, but that we stand up for them when others mistreat them (see Psalms 82:4, Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33, Zechariah 7:9-10 and Deuteronomy 23:15-16). These scriptural imperatives form the core of our identity as disciples of Jesus, and we refuse to compromise that identity for the supposed sake of personal well-being or gain.
As followers of Jesus, our call to pursue peace, mercy, justice, and forgiveness with and for all people is not contingent upon our own security or convenience. We will not allow the good news of the gospel to be enslaved to fear or hatred. As such, we call upon you, our fellow Christians who may be reading this letter, to stand firm in loving and valuing our Muslim neighbors, as well as all those seeking refuge from violence, persecution and conflict. Do not be deceived, faith without works is dead and Christians are still called to be doers, not just hearers of the word (see James 1:22-23).
And to you, our beloved Muslim neighbors, who have experienced or who continue to experience prejudice, bigotry or hatred coming from those professing to be Christians, we ask your forgiveness. As Christians, we love you, we stand with you, and we pray peace and blessings upon you. Thank you for your continued contribution to making our communities safer and stronger. Please do not hesitate to call upon us if we can be of help and know that you are not alone.
Your Christian Neighbors,
Rev. Roy A. Fisher, Gracepoint Church of Oroville
Rev. David Englund, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Oroville
Rev. Jerry Hambleton, First Congregational Church of Oroville
Rev. Stan Henderson, Trinity Presbyterian Church of Oroville.