MISSOULA, MT –Monstana State Senator Christine Kauffmann (D-Helena) was deeply moved by her recent visit a refugee camp in Greece and appealed to her fellow Montanans to welcome Syrian refugees, citing her own experience. “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,” she told the Missoulian. “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.”
Kauffman then turned the focus to Montana, proclaiming that she was “saddened and ashamed” that 55 of her Republican colleagues in the Montana Legislature urged Montana Governor Steve Bullock not to facilitate admission of any Syrian refugees into the state.
She continued, as the Missoulian reported: “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.”