More than 110 religious leaders have asked Alabama Governor Robert Bentley to rethink his position on the Syrian refugee crisis and do what they refer to as his Christian duty, welcoming and sheltering those in trouble.
Greater Birmingham Ministries, an ecumenical organization based in Alabama’s largest city, has organized a group of 116 pastors and other religious leaders from around the state. Each figure has signed the organization’s letter that says the governor’s faith requires kindness “to the least of these.”
“In this season where Christians remember the plight of Jesus and his family as political refugees, let it not be said that in Alabama, there was no room in the inn,” read the letter, signed by the collective of moderate leaders of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other groups, which was to be delivered to Bentley’s office in Montgomery.
With more than 45 million people moving around the U.S. each year, Alabama’s population has only increased 1.4% between 2010 and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Before the tiny increase, Alabama had 94.4 people per square mile. In other words, there should be room at the proverbial inn.
The Republican governor sometimes discusses his Southern Baptist faith in public, but his office has yet to offer a response to the letter.
In November, Bentley ordered state agencies to do whatever they could to legally prevent any of the some 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing to the U.S. from being able to move to Alabama. The move came from fears that terrorists might be able to slip in amongst them.
However, governors have limited powers in matters of immigration, which generally falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Consequently, the impact his order had remains unclear.
Nevertheless, Rev. Angie Wright, Greater Birmingham ministries’ associate director, said that the organization initiated the letter out of concern for Bentley’s position, the AP reports.
“We have so many politicians that wear their Christianity on their sleeve and campaign around it,” she said. “We think this is one area where faith needs to speak to more than our base fears.”
Currently, there are some 13.5 million people in Syria who need humanitarian assistance. About 4.3 million Syrians are refugees, and about 6.6 million are displaced within Syria; half of whom are children who are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.