They work at the gas station where I fill up my faithful sedan. They head organizations for which I’ve spoken. Some are clients through my work. Others have attended my church.
Sitting at their kitchen tables, I’ve shared their home-cooked food. Sitting at mine, they have bravely done the same. I have petted their dogs, pinned Canadian flags on their children and kissed their babies. A few times I even helped deliver them.
My life would be far less rich without Canada’s recent immigrants. I say recent because my grandparents on both sides were also immigrants. Any attitude less than welcoming seems to me both hypocritical and un-Christian.
Over many years, I’ve played with them, prayed with them and made friends with them. I have welcomed them into my home for weeks at a time. Hugged them when their lives are difficult; mingled my tears with theirs during a crisis too often spurred by racist attitudes of those around them. I’ve tutored them in my language and learned a few words in theirs.
We have worked together. Laughed together. Searched for answers to life’s big problems together.
I’ve helped them study for their Canadian Citizenship tests, realizing when they pass (with jubilance) that they now know more facts about my home and native land than I can remember.
Even when their faith stands in stark contrast to my own, we have remained friends. We have laughed over differences in our speech and compared wardrobes. We have discovered, to our surprise, that in the hidden places of our hearts, we are more, far more, the same than we are different.
I thought of all this when a Muslim mosque in Quebec became a carnage of horror and death, and when I learned that the murderer was influenced by a hatred for Muslims.
Radical elements exist in all the major religions, including Christianity. I hate that. People make general statements about immigrants that are both unfair and untrue. I hate that, too. In the last few years, as fear of radical terrorism has bred a poisonous, protectionist climate I have a few times caught myself doing the same. I hate that most of all.
Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister of Nazi Germany said: “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
That I fear. Because my own experience has told me, over and over again, that immigrants are not to be feared, but befriended. That doing so is well worth the risk of danger from the very few who have indeed become a threat.
A current religious trend encourages the mingling of separate religious practices and traditions in the name of spiritual unity. I can’t go there, and won’t. But I can continue to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who calls me to share goodness and light and truth with those around me, including immigrants and refugees. To ignore poison words that insist that certain immigrants are to be feared. Most of all, to reflect God’s love, obey his Word and walk in confidence.
If you are his follower, he calls you to that, too.