2 min read
Posted on 11.18.15
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 11.18.15
  • Filed under
  • immigrants
  • Muslims
  • St. Louis
  • Christians
  • Syrians
  • compassion

St. Louis has a rich history built on immigration. From the Italians, Poles, and Germans in the nineteenth century, to the Lebanese, Bosnians, and Vietnamese in the twentieth, and the continuing influx of immigrants from Iraq, and so many other places, our city has become home.

Immigration has made us a better city. Stronger. More resilient. More dynamic. More economically vibrant. It's given our children the opportunity to forge lasting friendships with those telling different stories from different backgrounds but with one shared humanity.

Our state’s welcoming ethos has sometimes been put to the test. The horrors of 9/11 closed many minds, and threatened to close doors, too --- but St. Louis remained open to immigrants from the Arab world, and we're better off for it. When animosity toward immigrants from Central America spiked, we redoubled our efforts, inviting children from the border who needed a safe place to grow up.

Last week, the world stood still. The senseless terrorist attacks in Paris made hearts skip a beat and on an international scale. When tragedies of this magnitude occur, we grasp for ways to prevent a similar catastrophe from coming to us --- to our country, to our state, to our city.

We could shudder, closing our doors out of fear. Fear of the foreign. Fear of the different. Fear that people from the same country as terrorists might be terrorists themselves.

Some state’s governors, though commendably not our own, have taken this route. They have said they don't want Syrian refugees right now. That they're scared refugees could be terrorists. Others pols have said they only want refugees who are Christian, leaving Muslim refugees to fend for themselves.

It can be tempting to mistake these fearful reactions for strength. But they're not strong. They're reactionary.

Instead, we must recommit ourselves to our most basic human values: welcoming those in need and being kind to our neighbors. To open our hearts and our neighborhoods to others is the most basic act of human nature. And strength.

We must remember that terrorists want to divide us: to divide Americans from Syrians,Christians from Muslims.But we must not allow terrorists to pit us against each other.

The City of St. Louis will continue to welcome Syrian refugees. Whether they are Christian, Muslim, or any other faith, they are our neighbors and they need our help. We will not cower. We will not slam its door in the faces of people fleeing a war-torn country. And the City of St. Louis will not place a religious test on our compassion.