Are Refugees Welcome?

When it comes to the Syrian Refugees, why do so many Americans who think of the U.S. as a Christian nation, want us to act totally counter to what Jesus taught? Do they not remember that Jesus and his family were political refugees themselves for at least a year, probably longer? The Holy Family fled their homeland to keep their infant son safe from Herod’s soldiers who were murdering baby boys. In exile Joseph and Mary had to live among strangers, and were probably unable to practice their Jewish faith. No synagogues, no Rabbis and no temple to offer sacrifices to Yahweh. Maybe this time in Jesus early life left an imprint on his psyche. Maybe that is why he commands us to “Welcome the stranger,” (among many other acts of compassion and mercy) in the Sermon on the Mount. [see Matthew 25:34]

Today we still have those who are exiled from their home, living in strange lands. But we are not talking about one family. Currently there are over 200,000 Syrian Refugees living in camps, waiting for permanent homes. And now there is a craze of media hype about the plight of these people, since the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. News pundits, politicians, and presidential candidates are all weighing in.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced he would be introducing a bill called the SECURE Act, which would “suspend visa issuance for countries with a high risk of terrorism and impose a waiting period for background checks on visas from other countries until the American people can be assured terrorists cannot enter the country through our immigration and visa system.” How can anyone honestly make such assurances? Why not just close all the borders, no international flights, no trading with other nations either, after all a terrorist might be a stow-away on a cargo ship in one of our harbors.

Donald Trump has said that letting these people “into this country is suicide,” and that it is a “Trojan horse.” He also says that he “would certainly implement” a database system tracking Muslims in the United States. Wow. If he has his way this country will become a police state, a real utopia for some, a hell for most.

But let us look at the facts. According to PolitiFact.com there are about 4.3 million U.N.-registered refugees who have fled Syria since the 2011 civil war. And almost two million of these registered Syrian refugees are living in Turkey inside and outside the camps. This is not even counting those who are unregistered. Just over 1,800 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States in the past four years, placed in about 35 states. For comparison, Germany has accepted 38,500 Syrian refugees and Canada has accepted 36,300 since 2013. And for the record, the Refugees Admissions Program, created in 1980 and retooled after 9/11, does actually perform background checks on all refugees, to the extent possible.

It seems that closing the door to thousands of desperate persons because a very small percentage might be or may become a terrorist does not make much sense. We are never really safe from those who wish to commit mass murder. After all, we cannot even stop our very own home grown terrorists. They both have evil intentions to maim and kill innocent people. I guess the main difference is our terrorist do it for the infamy, their name and face all over TV and internet, and the Jihadists will get their reward in paradise, 72 virgins. I wonder if a woman Jihadist will get 72 innocent young men?

Just look at the numbers cited in the New York Times June 24, 2015:  Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in U.S. Since 9/11 by Scott Shane

  • “Non-Muslim extremists have carried out 19 attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by the supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: The assaults have taken the lives of police officers, members of racial or religious minorities and random civilians.
  • “Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.

I know we are all fearful of terrorist attacks, but we cannot let fear rule our hearts. Remember to let your actions and words match the faith you claim. For Christians we are to “Iinvite the stranger in, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked…’ As Jesus commanded us in Matthew Chapter 25.

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