Letter to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Calling for Compassionate Response

The following letter was sent today to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Jr following announcement that he has sent a letter to President Obama opposing acceptance of Syrian refugees.

November 16, 2015

Dear Mayor Bartlett,

I am writing to express the disappointment of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance regarding your statements about Syrian refugees, and to offer to assist in developing a compassionate response.

I was recently able to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, UT (October 15-19).  Although the event had almost 10,000 people from 70 different countries and nearly 50 faith traditions, I was the only person from Oklahoma to attend the event.  While there, I heard Karen Armstrong (TED grant recipient who led the project that resulted in the Charter for Compassion) speak about our need to “nurture a sense of discomfort that there is profound injustice and suffering” in our world.

It was that sense of discomfort that led the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance to work with the City of Tulsa’s Human Rights Commission (and others) to seek City Council approval, as well as yours, in declaring Tulsa a “Compassionate Community.”  We are grateful for your support of that project, and look forward to the ways in which we can work together to make Tulsa even more compassionate.

However, we also have a strong sense of discomfort at your comments yesterday calling on the President to stop allowing Syrian refugees to relocate to the USA, and, in particular, your statement that “…we should have never allowed this to begin with.”  It is our hope that, as a Compassionate Community, Tulsa would always be a place of welcome for those in need of safety, solace, community, and a place to call home, and that such a welcome would be offered to all, regardless of whether they are fleeing economic difficulty, political turmoil, or religious persecution.

We understand and share your concern for the safety of our fellow Tulsans, but we call on you to please re-consider your earlier statements.  Refusing to provide a safe place for refugees will not necessarily make Tulsa any safer.  In fact, it could have the very opposite effect by increasing the amount of injustice and suffering in our world, thereby increasing our common discomfort.  We all share a sense of discomfort at the profound injustice and suffering of our world, especially recently.  However, we implore you to respond compassionately to that sense of discomfort and not add to it by projecting the belief that we should be afraid of those who need our compassion.

Please know that I and the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance stand ready to assist you in developing a compassionate response to recent events.  If we can assist, please feel free to contact me directly at xxx-xxx-xxxx.


Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director

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