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Dear President Trump:

Last fall, a popular yard sign popped up all over the community where I live in Virginia.  In English, Spanish and Arabic, it reads simply: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” In a matter of months, this welcoming sign has spread to communities across the United States.

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But I fear this message of welcome may be in danger.

Our Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University received a troubling email yesterday from a young woman applicant from East Africa who had planned to attend our Summer Peacebuilding Institute in May. She wanted to study how to reduce violence in her country.

“After thorough consideration,” she wrote, “I feel that I should cancel my application process because of what is happening in the United States at the moment. I would have really wanted to attend the course but to be honest I feel scared of what might happen when I get there. It’s a genuine concern about my safety.”

We hope this will not become a trend for many international applicants to U.S. universities.

Today’s Daily Lectionary readings are about welcoming. In a time of despair, the psalmist welcomes God’s help: “But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!” (Psalm 22:19) Moses tells the people that it is God “who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 10:18-19)

We are to welcome “outsiders” because, at one time or another, we have all been strangers ourselves.  Mother Teresa has wisely observed, “The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.”

At you inauguration, Paula White-Cain prayed that God give you “the confidence to lead us in justice and righteousness, and the compassion to yield to our better angels.” May it be so.

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler

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