St. Louis has a rich history built on immigration. From the
Italians, Poles, and Germans in the nineteenth century, to the Lebanese,
Bosnians, and Vietnamese in the twentieth, and the continuing influx of
immigrants from Iraq, and so many other places, our city has become home.
Immigration has made us a better city. Stronger. More resilient.
More dynamic. More economically vibrant. It's given our children the
opportunity to forge lasting friendships with those telling different stories
from different backgrounds but with one shared humanity.
Our state’s welcoming ethos has sometimes been
put to the test. The horrors of 9/11 closed many minds, and threatened to close
doors, too --- but St. Louis remained open to immigrants from the Arab world,
and we're better off for it. When animosity toward immigrants from Central
America spiked, we redoubled our efforts, inviting children from the border who
needed a safe place to grow up.
Last week, the
world stood still. The senseless terrorist attacks in Paris made hearts skip a
beat and on an international scale. When tragedies of this magnitude occur, we
grasp for ways to prevent a similar catastrophe from coming to us --- to our
country, to our state, to our city.
We could shudder, closing our doors out of fear. Fear of the
foreign. Fear of the different. Fear that people from the same country as
terrorists might be terrorists themselves.
Some state’s governors, though commendably not
our own, have taken this route. They have said they don't want Syrian refugees right
now. That they're scared refugees could be terrorists. Others pols have said
they only want refugees who are Christian, leaving Muslim refugees to fend for
It can be tempting to mistake these fearful reactions for
strength. But they're not strong. They're reactionary.
Instead, we must recommit ourselves to our most basic human
values: welcoming those in need and being kind to our neighbors. To open our
hearts and our neighborhoods to others is the most basic act of human nature.
We must remember that terrorists want to divide us: to divide
Americans from Syrians,Christians from
Muslims.But we must not allow
terrorists to pit us against each other.
The City of St. Louis will continue to welcome Syrian refugees.
Whether they are Christian, Muslim, or any other faith, they are our neighbors
and they need our help. We will not cower. We will not slam its door in the
faces of people fleeing a war-torn country. And the City of St. Louis will not
place a religious test on our compassion.