Cedar Rapids has always been a place that welcomes immigrants, refugees and people from different cultures and faiths.
I remember walking past the English Language Learners classroom at Washington High School. A poster on the door proudly announced the dozens of languages spoken inside.
Last summer, I brought an out-of-state friend to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. She was surprised and moved by the Faces of Freedom exhibit, which tells the story of immigrants on a dangerous, emotional journey to their new home.
Like the Czech community, the Muslim community has long contributed to the Cedar Rapids culture and economy. Muslims have lived and worked in Cedar Rapids since the late 1800s; the Mother Mosque of America was built in Cedar Rapids in 1934.
The federal government is sowing uncertainty in the lives of Muslim-Americans. Our elected officials have not spoken in defense of these longtime constituents.
I urge Cedar Rapidians to reach out to their neighbors, colleagues and friends who may be feeling fearful or unwelcome. I urge Cedar Rapidians to call their elected officials and remind them that they represent all Iowans, regardless of ethnicity, religion or race.
Cedar Rapids has long cultivated a culture that looks to the outside world not with fear, but with a hearty Iowa welcome. Let’s remember that this heritage makes us strong and continue to embrace it with open arms.
Santiago de Chile
Formerly of Cedar Rapids