Over the days following the terrorist attacks in Paris, I have felt the same concerns, fears even, regarding the welcoming of thousands of Syrian refugees. Who can deny that this diaspora could include several of our enemies determined to shed blood within our borders?! Yet, our fear should not be what drives us…at least not those of us who follow Jesus. The rhetoric from those who oppose welcoming the refugees has been alarming.
For generations, we have been a nation who has poured billions of our dollars into other nations as well as offered thousands of our sons and daughters lives around the world to protect freedom and those who cannot protect themselves. In the family trees of many Americans, one or more relatives can claim to have passed through the famed processing at Ellis Island, New York as immigrants. My great-grandfather came through with his siblings and others from then Czechoslovakia to escape communism. My father told me as a boy, the story of how his grandfather’s sister was killed by the communist trying to escape to America. I like many other Americans am here today because the nation opened its borders to my ancestors.
We have a people group whose nation has some of the oldest Christian roots in the world. Many ancient Biblical texts and scholars can be traced back to Syria, yet to Americans, this one included, we know little of the nation other than it is in the Middle East. Currently, several factions, including ISIS, fight throughout the Syrian landscape destroying the homes and livelihoods of people just like these refugees. In what world can even fathom warring powers destroying our communities? They flee to Europe and other destinations unknown not as spores for more violence and destruction but as people desperate to again know peace.
What’s changed in this nation? In 2005, this nation welcomed hundreds of thousands of people from New Orleans as they fled from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Yet, New Orleans had routinely been the murder capital of the America. Any given year would see more people murdered in New Orleans than those killed in Paris last week.
Many of the same places across the South who are shouting so loudly to bar these immigrants access welcomed people from New Orleans despite the fact that mixed in those multitudes were the few who were responsible for New Orleans murder rates.
How do we as those who want to maintain our own peaceful communities offer refuge to those who literally traveled around the world to find it while protecting ourselves from the our enemies?
Let’s begin by realizing the amazing resources we have at work in this nation. Jesus sent his followers out with the simple encouragement to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves (Matt. 10:16). We do not have to turn the refugees lose into the streets of America. However, when our governors and other politicians tap into the fear mongering and rally to the extremes, we are left with little to no room for a conversation. The extremes are easy (Thanks Craig). In the midst of the extremes awaits a difficult conversation on how this nation practices the compassion shown to so many of our ancestors while still maintaining the peace of our communities. We can never move into the tension where the solution can be found as long as we refuse to at least talk about the possibilities.
I believe in our nation and more importantly in the God who shows us eternal compassion. I ask you now and will ask my political leaders to enter into the discussion on how to protect our communities without sacrificing our humanity.