January 22, 2016 STATEMENT — LIRS condemns KKK targeting of refugees and Lutheran Services Carolinas

Press Contact: Miji Bell
MBell@lirs.org; 410-230-2841

BALTIMORE, MD — During the night of January 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed leaflets surrounding the neighborhood where Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) provides services to refugees in Columbia, South Carolina. LSC is a partner organization of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s (LIRS) national network that welcomes refugees.

The anti-refugee and anti-Muslim leaflets singled out LSC for its role in refugee resettlement and also featured crude, racist verse directed toward African-Americans. The Columbia incident is being investigated by law enforcement.

“The toxic sentiments reflected on the KKK leaflets are akin to the hatred and persecution that refugees are fleeing in their home countries,” said Ted Goins, President, Lutheran Services Carolinas. “No matter how complicated issues related to refugee resettlement become, we cannot allow groups like the Klan to seize the moment to promote hate and discrimination.”

“LIRS is appalled and deeply pained that refugees and LSC are being targeted in this manner,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “The leaflets that were distributed and the direct, hateful and misleading statements they contained, were an ugly and untruthful rant that sought only to fuel fear, distrust and the erosion of community bonds that have made Columbia and South Carolina a place that welcomes newcomers and recognizes both their humanity and the asset they are to the community.”

For decades, faith communities all across America and many churches in South Carolina have extended extraordinary welcome to refugees fleeing incredible violence, seeking safety for their children and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Bishop Herman Yoos of the South Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said,

Our faith calls us to love our neighbors, including refugees who are among new neighbors. The Bible teaches us that hate is never a hallmark of the faithful Christian: “Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service will continue to stand in solidarity with LSC to create safe and welcoming communities for refugees and migrants, regardless of religion, race or culture and reject legislation that promotes fear and division. Currently, senators in South Carolina are considering two bills that would restrict refugee resettlement in that state. Senate Bills 928 and 997 seek to prohibit state refugee agencies, such as LSC, from accepting any new refugees, as well as limit any state resources being directed to refugees until they register with the Department of Social Services (DSS). LIRS is hopeful that many South Carolinians will choose to stand with us and against the bills being considered next week that are discriminatory, and which do not reflect our values as Christians or as Americans.

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