IN­SIDE: An in-depth look at how lo­cal re­li­gious lead­ers are re­act­ing to the pres­i­dent’s travel ban.

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ERICA MOSER emoser@woonsock­et­call.com

Fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's Fri­day af­ter­noon ex­ec­u­tive or­der block­ing travel from seven Mid­dle Eastern and African coun­tries, some lo­cal re­li­gious lead­ers re­acted with out­rage. Oth­ers were more am­biva­lent, choos­ing to re­spond ten­ta­tively un­til they have more in­for­ma­tion.

The Rev. Gene Dys­zlewski, pas­tor at Lime Rock Bap­tist Church in Lin­coln, called it a “hor­ri­ble idea.”

“It's just not the Amer­i­can way,” he said. “I think that the pres­i­dent is act­ing reck­lessly; even the way he did it, there was no re­gard for pro­ce­dure. But the whole idea of a Mus­lim ban is rep­re­hen­si­ble, and my sense is this is ex­actly what it is.”

Trump's ex­ec­u­tive or­der bars cit­i­zens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, So­ma­lia, Su­dan, Syria and Ye­men – all Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­tries – from en­ter­ing the United States for 90 days. The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity was not asked to do a le­gal re­view of the or­der be­fore Trump signed it, The New York Times re­ported.Many ar­gue that Trump's ac­tion is not a Mus­lim ban. Former New York City mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani, an early sup­porter, told Fox News on Satur­day that when Trump first an­nounced his idea for a Mus­lim ban, he called Gi­u­liani and asked how he could do it legally.

In re­sponse, Dys­zlewski has been in con­tact with Mufti Ikram ul Haq, Imam of the mosque Masjid Al-Is­lam in North Smith­field.

Mufti Ikram in­vited Dys­zlewski's con­gre­ga­tion to the mosque on Fri­day, and the two lead­ers will share the pul­pit.

“The last thing you want to do is lis­ten to two preach­ers, but I promised to ev­ery­one this will be brief,” Dys­zlewski joked. “Ev­ery­one said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.'”

Lime Rock Bap­tist Church has also in­vited the mosque con­gre­ga­tion into its doors.

Dys­zlewski has no plans to es­tab­lish a sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tion there, say­ing it's a com­pli­cated is­sue that will take a lot of dis­cus­sion. But he also does com­mu­nity min­istry work at First Uni­tar­ian Church of Prov­i­dence, which he said will be a sanc­tu­ary church.

The Rev. Don An­der­son, ex­ec­u­tive min­is­ter of the Rhode Is­land State Coun­cil of Churches, put out a call for sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tions last week. This came Jan. 25, the same day as an ex­ec­u­tive or­der from Trump strip­ping fed­eral fund­ing from sanc­tu­ary cities, ex­cept as law man­dates.

RISCC has an­nounced a work­ing ses­sion for con­gre­ga­tions and in­di­vid­u­als in­ter­ested in the sanc­tu­ary move­ment. It will be held next Mon­day from 7 to 9 p.m. at First Uni­tar­ian Church of Prov­i­dence.

“If they're com­ing for a rally, they're go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed,” An­der­son clar­i­fied. “This is go­ing to be: roll up our sleeves, ask ques­tions, an­swer what we can.”

An­der­son said that meet­ing at­ten­dees will in­clude Dor­cas In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Rhode Is­land ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Kath­leen Cloutier and im­mi­gra­tion lawyer Roberto Gonzalez.

Sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tions, he added, would need to de­ter­mine how to prov­i­dence food, tu­tor­ing, le­gal aid, trans­la­tors, and ways for refugees to en­ter­tain them­selves. An­der­son also noted that a Mus­lim fam­ily could be liv­ing in a Chris­tian church and ques­tioned what ac­com­mo­da­tions would need to be made “so they can have full ex­pres­sion” of their faith.

“We re­ally hope we never have to do this, but if we do have to do this, we want to do it well,” An­der­son said of es­tab­lish­ing sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tions. He added that his hope is that peo­ple liv­ing in fear “can at least have some de­gree of com­fort know­ing that if some­body comes af­ter them, there is a place” they can go.

The Rev. Kurt Walker, pas­tor at Chapel Street Con­gre­ga­tional Church in Lin­coln, said he and mem­bers of his con­gre­ga­tion will at­tend RISCC's meet­ing on Feb. 6.

Then on Feb. 12 will be a con­gre­ga­tional meet­ing to dis­cuss the lo­gis­tics of be­com­ing a sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tion. Like many other churches, one is­sue fac­ing Chapel Street Con­gre­ga­tional Church is the lack of a full bath­room.

The con­gre­ga­tion al­ready had a meet­ing on the is­sue this past Sun­day. Walker be­lieves that “100 per­cent of the con­gre­ga­tion is be­hind want­ing to be­come a sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tion,” but there is hes­i­tancy con­cern­ing lo­gis­tics and vi­a­bil­ity.

“It's an ex­pec­ta­tion that God has of us to con­stantly be reach­ing out to those on the mar­gins,” Walker said, “to those per­se­cuted, to those op­pressed, to those strangers in a strange land who are of­ten told that there's no room for them at the inn.”

Walker went on to say that it's im­por­tant to rec­og­nize the num­ber of times God calls on peo­ple to be hos­pitable and “rad­i­cally open­ing” to those “who may not look like us, who may not sound like us, who may not even have the same be­liefs as us.”

Bishop Her­son Gonzalez, pas­tor at Cal­vary Wor­ship Cen­ter in Woonsocket, will also be at­tend­ing the work­ing ses­sion on Mon­day. While Gonzalez said he is go­ing with an open mind, he dif­fers from Walker in that he is not go­ing as an en­thu­si­as­tic sup­porter of sanc­tu­ary con­gre­ga­tions.

Gonzalez is feel­ing con­flicted.

On one hand, he be­lieves that laws on the books should be en­forced and that peo­ple need to be in the United States legally. But he doesn't want to see peo­ple get de­ported, and he would hate to see fam­i­lies torn apart.

“I think the church needs to find a nice bal­ance be­tween com­pas­sion and obey­ing the law, and that's go­ing to be dif­fer­ent for ev­ery pas­tor and ev­ery church,” he said.

Gonzalez was also un­cer­tain about the re­ac­tions he saw over the week­end.

“Peo­ple who are op­po­nents to Don­ald Trump and op­po­nents to the con­ser­va­tive world­view, they're de­mo­niz­ing what's hap­pen­ing to the point where they're caus­ing hys­te­ria,” he said. “I think we need to speak calmly and try to work through this lov­ingly and within the realms of the law.”

Sim­i­larly, the Rev. David Pierce – pas­tor at Four Cor­ners Com­mu­nity Chapel in Cum­ber­land – ex­pressed a de­sire to un­der­stand con­cerns be­fore act­ing.

“I cer­tainly want to make sure that if there is a need that is out there, that we don't dis­miss it by any means,” Pierce said, “but I also just want to learn about it at this point. I want to make sure that we ap­pro­pri­ately place our con­cern.”

He doesn't want his con­gre­gants to “be afraid of the wrong things” and is there­fore fo­cused on “ac­cu­rately plac­ing our fear.”

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