Reading Lloyd Omdahl’s Jan. 10th tribute to Eliot Glassheim in The Forum inspired me to share the letter I emailed to the two Beltrami County Commissioners who voted in favor of allowing refugees to resettle in their county and the three who voted against it.
“I want to thank you for your vote in favor of resettling refugees in Beltrami County! If the news articles are correct in portraying the mood and opinions of the meeting last night, your vote took some courage. I thank you for your willingness to stand up for our international neighbors who fled their homes and countries to protect and preserve their families and their lives!
“I, along with my husband and 2 children, live in Mayville, North Dakota, which is in Traill County and home to Mayville State University. As a citizen of our country and a person of the Christian faith, who is also an ELCA Lutheran pastor, I continue to be concerned and disturbed by the anti-refugee sentiment that has risen to the public eye in the last 4 years.
“I wonder how many people who attended the meeting last night, or one of you who are receiving this email, attended a Christian worship service this past Sunday, and heard once again the story of the 3 Magi who traveled long distances following the star that announced the birth of a new King, to bring him gifts and honor his birth? Of course, the second half of this story, is that once King Herod heard from the Magi that a new King had been born in his Kingdom, he tried to trick the Magi into telling him where the new king was. Long story short... King Herod did not find out where the new king was, so he ordered all male boys age 2 and younger to be killed. And so, to save their son's life, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt, as refugees seeking asylum.
“I wonder, if your county, like rural counties and towns in North Dakota, experience a hard time keeping their local cafes open because they can't find enough people to wait on tables, or whether your local nursing homes are restricted by the number of residents they can accept, due to not being able to hire enough people? In Fargo and Grand Forks, their health providers, motel industry and restaurants rely on new immigrant/refugee populations to fill the workforce needed. When new refugees start living in a community, they start paying sales tax as soon as they purchase their first non-food items. And once a job is obtained, Social Security and taxes are taken out of their pay check.
“I also wonder, what are the overt and covert motivations for people in your county who support the vote to not allow any refugees to be resettled in Beltrami County, when it is reported that there have been zero refugees resettled in Beltrami County in the last 5 years? (If fear is inspired by past events such as in St. Cloud, I urge people to step back and take a broad view of refugees who have been resettled across our nation, and look at those statistics.)
“I am a 4th & 5th generation Swedish American Lutheran, whose ancestors settled in eastern Nebraska and central Kansas as farmers and Lutheran pastors, seeking religious freedoms of expression and a better life. (I recognize that my family lineage benefited, and, I as a part of that lineage, continue to benefit from the Native nations being forced off the land which became Kansas and Nebraska.)
“Our country was not kind to the Native nations who were pushed off their land and treated inhumanly, so that European immigrants could resettle in a new land and live a better life. Each new group of European immigrants in our country's history experienced suspicion, fear, and prejudices. (Consider the history of how the US Flag started being present in church sanctuaries across the United States in the early 1900s during the time of WWI and after.)
Let us stop repeating history!”