I find myself both saddened and outraged by the comments of the Lewiston’s mayor criticizing the Somalian people.

This call to assimilate is divisive and has devastating effects on people forced or pressured to suppress their culture, their history and their identity.

It is not a part of the American story we can afford to repeat.

One would hope the lessons of the past would be relevant when considering the actions and inactions of today citizens and leaders. The assimilation of the Native American people, the forced migration of the people of Africa and the Ku Klux Klan in Maine attacking the French Canadian immigrant mill workers are the horrors of the American story.

This call to oppress another human being has a profound effect on both the oppressed and the oppressor. It is an invitation that needs to be strongly repudiated.

When we say to people that who they are is not OK or when we tell people they do not belong, the blemish is ours to wear. When a person is made invisible or forced to hide behind false pretenses, we, the American people, become part of the global story of hate, oppression and cultural violence.

As refugees arrive on our shores looking for a life beyond the atrocities they left behind, we have the opportunity to live differently. We can be the ones to change history. We can begin again with love, respect and dignity.

The diversity of America needs be celebrated. I choose to participate in a vision where the uniqueness of who people are and what you bring into the community is valued. A vision where the diversity of religions and cultures are recognized, welcomed, embraced and celebrated.

Rev. Carie Johnsen, Winthrop

Minister, Unitarian Universalist

Community Church of Augusta