They Came for Muslims and Immigrants, Then They Came for Me

1 October, 2018

Stephen Rohde

Sev­en­teen years ago, in the wake of 9/11, Rev George Regas con­vened a wide array of faith lead­ers and activists in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia to found Inter­faith Com­mu­ni­ties Unit­ed for Jus­tice and Peace.  Since then, ICUJP has met on over 875 Fri­days and has orga­nized hun­dreds of events to advance its mis­sion that RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES MUST STOP BLESSING WAR AND VIOLENCE. 

As the dan­ger­ous, threat­en­ing and fate­ful US “War on Ter­ror” began to emerge, I was remind­ed of the haunt­ing words of Rev Mar­tin Niemöller’s cau­tion­ary poem, warn­ing the world dur­ing the atroc­i­ties of Nazism that when a repres­sive gov­ern­ment moves against the most despised in soci­ety, if left unchecked, no one is safe and it will move against its own cit­i­zens. In Octo­ber 2001, I pub­lished my own ver­sion of “Then They Came for Me,” repro­duced here. 

Sad­ly, today, sev­en­teen years lat­er, we are con­fronting omi­nous­ly com­pa­ra­ble threats to democ­ra­cy reveal­ing the per­sis­tence of fear, hatred, racism and bigotry. 

That’s why ICUJP con­tin­ues it work with­out inter­rup­tion and that’s why every­one, every­day needs to resist and advance the cause of peace, jus­tice and lib­er­ty for all. 

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Then They Came for Me

   First they came for the Mus­lims, and I did­n’t speak up because I was­n’t a Muslim.

   Then they came to detain immi­grants indef­i­nite­ly sole­ly upon the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Attor­ney Gen­er­al, and I did­n’t speak up because I was­n’t an immigrant.

   Then they came to eaves­drop on sus­pects con­sult­ing with their attor­neys, and I did­n’t speak up because I was­n’t a suspect.

   Then they came to pros­e­cute non-cit­i­zens before secret mil­i­tary com­mis­sions, and I did­n’t speak up because I was­n’t a non-citizen.

   Then they came to enter homes and offices for unan­nounced “sneak and peek” search­es, and I did­n’t speak up because I had noth­ing to hide.

  Then they came to rein­state Coin­tel­pro and resume the infil­tra­tion and sur­veil­lance of domes­tic reli­gious and polit­i­cal groups, and I did­n’t speak up because I had stopped par­tic­i­pat­ing in any groups.

   Then they came for any­one who object­ed to gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy because it aid­ed the ter­ror­ists and gave ammu­ni­tion to Amer­i­ca’s ene­mies, and I did­n’t speak up because.…..I did­n’t dare.

   Then they came for me.……  and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Stephen Rohde, a con­sti­tu­tion­al lawyer and Pres­i­dent of the ACLU of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, is indebt­ed to the inspi­ra­tion of Rev. Mar­tin Niemöller (1937). If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion and work of ICUJP, please make a dona­tion here.