A prisoner in a Nazi prison camp for 7 years, Pastor Martin Niemoller famously wrote the following lines:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
By all reports it is clear that there are now among us many of our fellow Americans who are ready to “come for” Muslims. Other reports show that some are ready to “come for” Mexicans or African-Americans or somebody else. Sadly, and almost unbelievably, political leaders such as Donald Trump have put their cowardly and hateful agenda before the American people and the world as legitimate proposals, thus shaming our nation.
The vast majority of Americans recognize that we are a nation of immigrants and a nation that holds religious freedom as a fundamental value. People of faith such as those of us at Sacramento ACT (Area Congregations Together) are called upon to welcome the stranger in our midst as one of our own for we know we were once strangers. We are not called upon to condemn millions from a religious community or ethnic group for the actions of a few.
It is time for all of us to speak out for America and reject reckless and dangerous rhetoric from our political candidates. It is not a matter of “political correctness,” but a basic responsibility of candidates, office holders, and political parties to promote public policies and a public voice that contribute to the well-being of all Americans including those who are foreign-born, those who are poor, and those who practice their religions under rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. We are heartened to see that political leaders on both sides of the aisle have rejected this kind of hateful rhetoric and we call upon all civic, faithful and political leaders to do so.
Our nation rises above others in our inescapable network of mutuality. There is a mutual interdependence of all our lives. The richness of our diverse population provides us with the opportunity to flourish and show the world how all its peoples can prosper together. The alternative, rejection of others and separation of ourselves from them, is the fundamental root of violence. It breeds fear, greed, aversion and chaos.
Blatantly false statements, unconstitutional and outrageous policy proposals, and unrelenting belligerence toward Muslims and immigrants in general by public figures have become intolerable. We call upon our leaders and all candidates for public office to reclaim the dignity and integrity of our political process. We call upon all who live in this great nation at this critical time, as neighbors, to speak out for America.