“I was a stranger and you invited me in.” — Matthew 25:35
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
Valparaiso University is constituted by people of different backgrounds and beliefs in dialogue with one another in the common pursuit of Truth. Those of us who have chosen to link our destinies with this place — whether faculty, students, alumni, staff, or friends — value, respect, invite, and welcome a wide array of opinions, beliefs, and cultural practices. This, we believe, is fundamental to our truth-seeking enterprise. Therefore, we are called to dialogue across our differences — even when those differences may be irreconcilable.
As an institution of faith and higher learning rooted in the Christian intellectual tradition, we take Jesus’ words from Matthew 25 to heart when he says, “I was a stranger and you invited me in … Truly I tell you, whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters, you do for me.” Similarly, the Quran encourages adherents of Islam to “do good — to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet).” — Q:4:36
Valparaiso University rejects messages and actions rooted in prejudice, racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance. Our dear friends and colleagues — the international students, faculty members, staff members, and members of our local communities — are our sisters and our brothers and those neighbors who are near and those neighbors who are strangers. All of these members of our community, and our Muslim students and faculty members in particular, are an integral and necessary part of our truth-seeking journey. They are Valpo. And because they are Valpo, they dedicate their time, leadership, and service for the sake of the world. Whenever any member of this community falls victim to hateful actions and speech it is our moral duty, to speak out against intolerance and injustice and to demand change.
On Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, the President of the United States signed an executive order that suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days. The order blocks entry to the U.S., for at least 90 days, for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. It targets Muslim-majority nations. The order also suspends the issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals from these countries. It is unclear whether this list of nations will be expanded in the future or even if the executive order is legal. Over the weekend we saw people, bearing legal documents like green cards and valid visas, barred entry to the U.S. and held for extended periods of questioning even if they had legal documentation with them. To the best of our knowledge, all of Valpo’s current faculty and students from the affected countries are accounted for and safe. More specific information and advice will be provided to all international students by the Provost’s office, and an information session is being planned for early this week.
As we navigate these difficult and polarizing times, where truth-seeking and truth-telling becomes ever more precious, I implore you to remember what we are called to do together in this place as members of the Valpo community. I encourage you to be in dialogue with one another with humility, care and respect. I remind you of the life and example of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his transformative national movement for peace, justice, and equality through non-violence. Finally, I share with you the statements adopted unanimously by Valparaiso University’s faculty and student senates that repudiate anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments. May we use this moment in our nation’s history to reaffirm our values as a community committed to freedom, faith, inclusion, and dialogue. And may we continue to cherish our diversity — using our words and actions to model for others what it could look like to live in a community where love abounds and where mutual dialogue and understanding flourish.
Thank you for all you do to make our community a beacon of light and a source of hope in this troubled world.
Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D.