A statement from Bishop James F. Mauney:
In 1944-1945, German soldiers who had invaded Europe fought against our own sons and daughters, were brought as prisoners of war and placed in camps near Timberville, in Rockingham and Augusta counties. These enemy soldiers were actually paid a per diem to help with the bumper crop harvest that was happening in the Shenandoah Valley. Even with the unspoken concern of German Americans being in the area like ULCA Lutherans and Evangelical Brethren and German Reformed, the prisoners of war were still allowed to work side by side with others in the orchards and fields. Actually, of more concern, a number of the farms were owned by German Americans. Lutheran pastors who spoke German had worship services among the prisoners of war in their own language. All kinds of ‘cahoots’ could have happened as was feared in California with Japanese Americans. Yet the only thing that seemed to have ‘actually happened’ was that tomatoes, corn, apples were picked and the harvest was brought in. How much of a risk was it to bring hundreds of enemy soldiers who had sworn allegiance to the Fuhrer deep into the breadbasket of America among those who had a common heritage and even foreign language with them during wartime itself? Was it a risk to trust German Americans in these years?
Since 1939 Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services has settled almost 500,000 refugees from war torn areas of our world. After WWII, many of them were Lutherans from German, Balkans, and Scandinavia. Settling refugees coming from regions of our sworn enemies is nothing new. Welcoming families worn out by violence and bloodshed, families who had nowhere to go, families who had endured so much hardship for such a long time with children so vulnerable has been a ministry of Lutherans for decades.
We, as Lutherans, are not about to stop now. I join with our Lutheran Immigration and refugee services in seeking through their work to welcome and advocate for the rights of the stranger, the alien, the immigrant, the refugee, from all parts of the globe to live here among us. Color, slant of eyes, language, religion, gender should not deter us who worship a Lord who became the ‘alien righteousness’ for us, of Semitic color and language, Jewish in faith, crucified as a terrorist of the empire, who claimed to be the Son of Man and the Son of God among us. Prisoners of war to refugees should find a welcome among us who quietly consider, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” from Matthew 25. “Lord, when did we do this?…As you did it to the LEAST of these, you did it to me.”
Providing safety and hope to refugees of the world reveals more than politics; it reveals the character of a nation.