Retired megachurch pastor Dan Scott has witnessed the transformation of Nashville, Tennessee, over the course of the past few decades as the city has taken on thousands of refugees despite the objection of many of the area’s white Christian conservative residents.
Scott, the former pastor of Christ Church Nashville who retired last June, was among many who harbored some concerns when an influx of thousands of persecuted refugees from Nepal was resettled to Nashville in the early 2010s.
But now that the Nepalese refugee community has successfully integrated into the city and many of them have become members of Scott’s old church, Scott sees their resettlement as a blessing to his town.
“It wasn’t the refugees themselves that were resented,” he told The Christian Post in a recent interview. “It was the idea that the government had brought these people in where there was no infrastructure.”
Scott discussed the ramifications of President Donald Trump’s executive order signed last year giving state and local government authorities the ability to block refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions.
He opposes the new order, contending that it is an attempt to simply “pass the buck” on the refugee resettlement issue to somebody else to “make the decision not to help people.”
“Obviously, no nation can take in all of the suffering people of the world,” he said. “But the Old Testament repeatedly talks about this. You leave the gleanings in the field and you treat the foreigners among you with respect and make sure that they’re fed and all that kind of stuff.”
Although he did hold some concerns about Nepalese refugees being resettled in Nashville years back, he did not outright object to their resettlement in his community like others did in his area.
He did, however, question the logic of resettling thousands of non-English speaking Hindu and Buddhist refugees in a city that lacked an adequate public transportation system and other infrastructure necessities to help ease resettlement.
Not only did the city lack expanded mass transit, but neither the federal nor the state government provided the refugee community with English language classes or any kind of cultural readiness training, he noted. The refugee communities needed help learning things such as setting up bank accounts, getting car insurance or even flushing a toilet.
“For me, it was bewildering like it was for a lot of people,” he said. “Why would you bring 100 Nepalese and put them in a housing division that’s just a few blocks from the church who didn’t have any ways to get anywhere? They didn’t know how to use a flush toilet. It felt to me like the government kind of dumped these people without giving them the infrastructure.”
“We don’t have mass transit, for example, in the area. So people have to have cars. The Nepalese had been living in refugee camps. For some of them, they were in camps as long as they had lived. And so to figure out how to use a car, how to get a car, how to get insurance, it was just a massive thing because even if we got them jobs, how would they get to work?”
Scott recalled his time as an immigrant to Quebec, Canada, in the 1980s. During that time, he said that the Canadian government offered him language classes for nine months. But in the U.S., he said nothing similar is offered by the government.
“In [the American] situation, if private people don’t step up to the plate like churches, the folks are thrust into an urban situation they don’t understand economically or any other way,” Scott said. “Plus, they’ve got to work immediately to support themselves and don’t have the opportunity of learning the language.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith