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Letters to the editor — Sunday (2-5-2017)

A history lesson from 1797 treaty 

At this moment in our nation’s history, it might be worthwhile to look at one of our country’s first foreign policy conflicts. Commercial shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, during the last decade of the 18th century, was being targeted by the Barbary Pirates, who were primarily from the Muslim coast of North Africa.

President Washington decided to pursue diplomacy to protect American merchant ships. The result was the Treaty of Tripoli, drawn up during the Washington administration and signed into law by John Adams in 1797. The language in Article 11 of the document may surprise many Americans today.

It reads:  “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen (Muslims) — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

While circumstances obviously change over the course of 220 years, it is unfortunate that our new president, as opposed to President Washington, is leading us in the direction of international conflict. Even though Muslims may be the modern face of refugees, those of us who are Christians should remember that Jesus Christ was a refugee whose family was given political sanctuary in Egypt, an act that saved the life of their infant son.

As Americans we should also remember that our ancestors had the courage to walk through open doors into this New World and to close those doors, which we have done before, is always an act of fear.

 — Keith Townsend

 Mt. Ulla

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