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Community Statement on Refugees and Immigration

We live in challenging times. Divisions on the national level feel personal and close to home on Bethel University’s campus. The recent presidential executive order on immigration has generated legal challenges, reactions from all ends of the political spectrum, and personal anxiety in many circles including in families who are part of the Bethel community.

As a university founded by immigrants and rooted in the teaching of the Bible, we are committed to living out the biblical mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we understand our neighbors to include “the stranger” and vulnerable in our world. We are part of organizations like the National Association of Evangelicals, Transform Minnesota, The Evangelical Immigration Table, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities that have expressed concern about the recent executive order on immigration and refugees. Bethel University has advocated for fair and just immigration laws and special care for “the stranger” among us in multiple ways.

Bethel faculty, staff, students, and alumni have been involved in immigration justice issues for long before the recent attention given to this issue. Twice we have hosted the G92 conference, a conference for college students that focuses on the issue of immigration reform and refugee issues from a biblical perspective. (The Hebrew word ger—immigrant or stranger—is used 92 times in the Old Testament). As one academic example among many, College of Arts & Sciences faculty member Amy Poppinga’s history class project brought campus-wide attention to Syrian refugees. Bethel joined as a sponsor of We Are One Minnesota to speak out on behalf of marginalized people in our state. And Bethel Seminary students Matt and Nicole Paschall have served in Budapest at the front lines of the flow of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq.

As a university we are committed to caring for students and employees who are affected by changes in immigration laws or policies or practices that discriminate against people based on their ethnicity, religion, or place of birth. We want Bethel to be a caring and safe place for those who are vulnerable to such forms of discrimination. We will follow the privacy restrictions that are part of the Family Rights and Privacy Act. We will expect appropriate legal documentation such as warrants when information is requested by outside authorities. We will continue to offer admission and to provide financial aid to students who are vulnerable. We will also partner with Bethel alumni and friends to connect students to legal resources that specialize in immigration and refugee issues. We will do everything we can to support our students and employees during these challenging times because of our commitment to Christ and our love for our neighbors.

Thank you for joining us in making the Bethel community a place where Christ is honored and where all people are treated as image-bearers of God.

Jay Barnes, president

Deb Harless, executive vice president and provost

Ruben Rivera, chief diversity officer

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