Governor John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
November 18, 2015
Dear Governor Kasich,
I write to you as a priest and not a politician; I write to you as a citizen of the United States, of Ohio, and of the world that we share, the world created of God and given into our hands to tend and to care for.
I am disturbed by the rhetoric that I have heard from you recently regarding “pausing” the settlement of refugees from Syria. I hardly need to remind you that our most recent acts of domestic terrorism have come not from extremists from the Middle East but from young men disaffected and suffering from mental illness; from an over-availability of deadly weapons; and from a culture that fears difference and fails to see the beauty and strength of our diversity. I am thinking of Mother Emanuel church in Charleston; the Jewish centers in Kansas City; the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Ideologies of exclusion, fear, and our own superiority and dominance have already proved our greatest danger. Rhetoric which increases fear and promotes exclusion, does not, cannot make us safer.
I have heard, too, that you are interested in promoting Judeo-Christian values around the world. Of course, I am interested and invested in those values, too. I will not quote to you from the myriad Bible passages that speak to the fundamental values of hospitality, care for the stranger, relief for the poor and the alien among us. I am sure you know them already. In fact, I believe that even as you speak, you can hear, if you listen, that angel knocking at the back of your mind: the one that we risk entertaining unawares when we welcome the least and the lost; the one that we risk locking out when we fail to open the door to them.
It is my understanding that the aims of politics and religion, when practiced purely, have many of the same ends in mind: the welfare of the world that God has created; the good of the people with whom we share it; the peace that passes understanding. Terrorism perverts that understanding and those aims. Let’s not let it change our religion, nor our best policies.
I can barely fathom the depth of need and of despair of those parents, families, children fleeing war and hatred in Syria. I know that there are much easier ways to come to the US; I say this as a relatively recent immigrant myself from Britain, the homeland, lest we forget, of the “shoe bomber”, Richard Reid.
I urge you to reconsider your use of Syrian refugees, already tormented to the point of risking death at sea, exiling themselves, tearing apart families by ISIS, as pawns in the political machinations against terrorism, and in the rhetoric of politicians for their own purposes. Such rhetoric is an attack on our own way of life, our own values, our own righteousness.
Yours most sincerely,
The Revd Rosalind C. Hughes
“If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this; to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:26-27