Letter: Ecumenical message welcomes immigrants to the Berkshires

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To the editor:

With one resolute voice from many traditions, backgrounds and beliefs, we declare that we will not live in fear of the stranger, the asylum seeker, the refugee or the immigrant. We will not live in the misguided fear that among those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" there are hidden people wishing to do us harm. We will not live in the baseless, crippling fear of lost jobs, lost traditions, lost privilege, lost security or lost language.

We will not live afraid. We were not given the gift of life to hide in fear behind walls and razor wire. The gift of life is not honored when we lock out the oppressed or when we launch tear gas at women and children. We refuse to buy the fear that so many attempt to sell. The empty commodity of fear, whether sold to gain popularity or power, brings with it horrors that make us less than the humans we were created in love to be. With one, unified voice, we proclaim the words of our common Scriptures: "Fear Not!"

With one resolute voice — from our many traditions, backgrounds, and beliefs — we will live by joyfully embracing and welcoming the stranger, the alien, the refugee, the immigrant and the asylum seeker. We will live by remembering that we too were once strangers, and therefore we are called to love those neighbors as we love ourselves. We will live by caring for strangers along their way, understanding that in welcoming them we may be welcoming messengers from God. We will live by welcoming the stranger, one of the least of these — because when we do that, we welcome God's very self. With one resolute voice, set free from fear, we will live a life of love and unconditional welcome for the stranger, asylum seeker, refugee and immigrant, one and all!

The Rev. Erik Karas, Sheffield; The Rev. Dr. Jane Tillman, Stockbridge; The Rev. Cricket Cooper, Pittsfield

The letter is signed by 29 clergy people from Berkshire County representing clergy from the Lutheran, Episcopal, UCC, Roman Catholic and Reformed Jewish Traditions:

The Rev. Liz Goodman, Monterey; The Rev. Timothy Weisman, Pittsfield; The Rev. Brent Damrow, Stockbridge; The Rev. John Nelson, Lenox; The Rev. Dr. Janet Zimmerman, Great Barrington; Rabbi Barbara Cohen, Great Barrington; The Rev. Jill Graham, Sheffield; The Rev. Michael Tuck, Lenox; The Rev. Nathaniel Anderson, Williamstown; The Rt. Rev. Jack M. McKelvey, Retired Bishop of Rochester NY, Sheffield; The Rev. Don Sherling, Sheffield; The Rev. Bill Neil, Lee; The Rev. Quentin Chin, Lenox; The Rev. Marilyn R. Rossier, Lenox; The Rev. Mark Longhurst, Williamstown; The Rev. Carol A. Killian, Pittsfield; The Rev. Jennifer Kimball, Hinsdale; Rabbi Neil Hersch, Great Barrington; The Rev. Belle Fox-Martin, West Stockbridge; The Rev. Joel Huntington, Pittsfield; Rabbi Jodie Gordon, Great Barrington; The Rev. Carolyn Peck, North Adams; The Rev. Fleming Rutledge, Alford; Fr. Brian McGrath, Lee; Rabbi Seth Wax, Williamstown and The Rev. Virginia Vogel-Polizzi, Great Barrington

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