America Can Be Home For Syrian Refugees

syrian children
Refugee Syrian children

In the wake of the terrible tragedy in Paris Friday night, some have decided this is a good opportunity to rally public support behind anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The trend this first Monday after the attacks is for governors to issue public statements declaring that their states won’t accept any refugees from the war zone in Syria. At the G20 summit this morning, President Obama said, “The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism … they are parents, they are children, they are orphans. It is very important that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”

Already, the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, and Illinois have issued statements declaring their intentions to turn away refugees at state borders. I fully expect a multitude of other governors to follow suit.

Jesus was clear on our duty to the immigrant and the stranger. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” he taught. “Blessed are the merciful,” and “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” also encompass how Jesus implored us to treat others. The Judeo-Christian tradition is one of welcome and radical hospitality, stemming from the Jewish people’s status as dispossessed and transient people throughout various times in their history. The tradition that Jesus grew up in, that he passed along to us, was one that realized that any of use, at any time, could become displaced and homeless, and we would others to take us in and show us mercy and hospitality.

Likewise, America is a land of immigrants and refugees. We have a history of taking in the people the rest of the world didn’t want, of creating a nation molded from innumerable peoples and backgrounds. Our Statue of Liberty, gifted to us by the French, proclaims this at our borders, saying “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breath free.”

The ordinary people of Syria, women and children and grandparents, are being oppressed and terrorized by the evil of ISIS. They have been subject to four years of civil war and seen their homes and businesses and all they know and love destroyed. They no longer have homes. And naturally they turn to the nation that they hear constantly is the most free in the world, that offers the most hope. We have a duty to honor their struggle and their trust by standing with open arms. More importantly, as Christians within this nation, we have a duty to embody the radical and beautiful message of Jesus, and welcome the stranger, clothe them, feed them, love them.

I implore the governor of my home state, Mary Fallin, to not let politics cloud your judgment. You proclaim your faith in Jesus, your commitment to Christianity. Now is a perfect opportunity to live that out in the position of great power and privilege you have been granted. Be an example to your fellow governors, who also like to proclaim their Christian bona fides. Instead of leaving them to the mercies of ISIS, instead of watching their children wash up like trash on the beaches of the world, grant them safety and security here, in the middle of our great country. Let Oklahoma be a home for those fleeing terror and oppression around the world.

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9 thoughts on “America Can Be Home For Syrian Refugees

  1. Are trying to push a lie?

    There Governors are not rejecting on anti-immigrant or anti-muslim grounds. They were rejecting these refugees because they are being allowed into the country with no verification of who they are. The French terrorists came in as if they were refugees. It seems smart to halt the process until we can verify they aren’t terrorists. Does Jesus expect us to take in immigrants, if when doing so, allows them the ability to kill our fellow citizens? When reading Christ’s words and reciting them as you do; it does a disservice to Christ, Scripture and the rest of the Church on earth when you do so in an unwise manner.

    While I question the policy of shipping refugees around the globe, rather than eliminating the threat. I am not against the US caring for those in need. It simply defies common sense (a gift for God); however, that you would allow them in without proper verification.

    Please post blogs that are truthful. You seem to have an agenda to put forth a politically liberal ideology which you then attempt to justify with a cut/paste Bible passage method.

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    1. What you are saying is patently untrue. The United States has a long and rigorous process for refugees that can take as long as 18-24 months. This is a good resource http://www.npr.org/2015/11/17/456395388/paris-attacks-ignite-debate-over-u-s-refugee-policy I never advocated for a completely free and open process; what I am doing is condemning those who have decided to use this moment to politically respond by refusing any and all refugees. Doing that with no regard for the current process and without seriously addressing what could be done better or differently is not responsible governing; it’s xenophobic political opportunism. And it surely isn’t any sort of Christianity.

      As for your allegation of my “politically liberal ideology”, you’ve made this statement several times here. I’ve never been secret about my progressive politics or my political background. I was progressive before I was religious; I came back to Christianity because I was shown it could be compatible with the things I found important in life: equality, compassion, justice, mercy. I could make the same accusation of you, or anyone else who practices a faith while holding political positions. Christianity doesn’t require a politically conservative worldview, so I would appreciate it if you quit acting like my brand of Christianity is illegitimate or insincere because of this.

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      1. Justin, explain how a rigorous background check will work with a people that can make up their own back story because they come from a country in which records are mostly non-existent? Greece just recently admitted that they are incapable of checking the validity of a person’s identity unless they are already in a terrorist database. http://news.yahoo.com/nearly-impossible-jihadists-among-migrants-greeks-warn-084048253.html;_ylt=A0SO8wO_AlFWN04AUzNXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyNGcyMXY0BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjAxMjJfMQRzZWMDc2M- Moreover, 75% or more of those that flee are men, not women and children.

        As for a better solution, why not ask the wealthy middle east countries why they expect the West to address this issue? Saudi has an empty tent city for 3 million that could be used. Why is the only solution to bring the strong possibility of terror to our shores?

        As I stated, Christ would want us to help these people, but use our common sense in the process. If we take a look at terror history from the 1980’s to the present, there is an overwhelming pattern of Muslim’s attempting to create terror within western societies. We know they pose as respectable citizens and then work in the shadows to cause great harm to the innocent. I am not implicating all of Islam. I am saying that one could make the case that it is actually unChristian to deny the threat and put innocent lives in danger in order to soothe ones desire for good works. Have you read of the increase in rape happening in Europe as these refugees attack European citizens? Are you advocating for this in your neighborhood? Out of Christian love for my family and friends, I want this handled outside of theUS. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3247831/Rape-child-abuse-rife-overcrowded-asylum-centres-huge-surge-migrants-pushes-Germany-s-services-breaking-point-claim-womens-rights-groups-politicians.html , https://themuslimissue.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/sweden-child-refugees-gang-rape-woman-after-playing-cute/

        Can you please point out a time when I used God’s word to legitimize my political view? You are free to hold any political view you choose. However, it is you claiming that a common sense rejection of the refugees stands contrary to what Jesus expects, when he also told his disciples to take a sword as they went out into the world, but nevermind that. The problem with using the Bible to demand only one action is correct in a matter that falls directly under the adiaphora category is it becomes you attempting read your ideology into the Bible; rather than reading Christian Doctrine out of it.

        Finally, if we are country with a large Christian population who are required to help the those in need; where is your blog about the thousands of Christians persecuted and killed by Muslims across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia? Why are you not demanding they be given refugee status? They are your brothers/sisters/mother/fathers in Christ. Not to mention, they have yet to target innocent civilians. Or does that not sit well with your political ideology?

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      2. This is from a recent Time article:

        “What happens once a refugee is referred to the U.S.?

        Our government performs its own intensive screening, a process that includes consultation from nine different government agencies. They meet weekly to review a refugee’s case file and, if appropriate, determine where in the U.S. the individual should be placed. When choosing where to place a refugee, officials consider factors such as existing family in the U.S., employment possibilities and special factors like access to needed medical treatment.

        How do we know the refugees aren’t terrorists?

        Every refugee goes through an intensive vetting process, but the precautions are increased for Syrians. Multiple law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies perform “the most rigorous screening of any traveler to the U.S.,” says a senior administration official. Among the agencies involved are the State Department, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. A DHS officer conducts in-person interviews with every applicant. Biometric information such as fingerprints are collected and matched against criminal databases. Biographical information such as past visa applications are scrutinized to ensure the applicant’s story coheres.”

        That sounds pretty rigorous to me. The whole process takes 18-24 months.

        Oh, and this:

        Who are they?

        “According to a senior administration official, roughly half the refugees admitted have been children. Around 25% are adults over 60. Only 2% of those admitted, the senior administration official said, have been single males of “combat age.” ”

        It’s not that Middle Eastern countries shouldn’t play a role in this; they should. But so should we. We can provide shelter to a small number of people who need a place to live.

        You ask, “Are you advocating for this in your neighborhood?” Actually, yes. I am part of a team here in Tulsa organized by the Tulsa Metro Ministry working to find solutions and resources for Syrian refugees here in the Tulsa area. My wife and I have both indicated that if we did not live in a small two-bedroom apartment, we would be more than willing to provide a temporary home for a refugee. You can read more about us and our efforts here http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/religion/tulsa-metropolitan-ministry-seeks-to-help-syrian-refugees-to-the/article_d4f49da0-203d-5a50-93cf-25cae053d847.html

        Again, as I’ve stated multiple times, I’m not advocating for wide open borders and no vetting process. What I am saying is, this political xenophobic fearmongering that is using this crisis to say we need to close our borders 100% to all refugees, especially Muslims, is irresponsible and morally reprehensible, especially considering our role in creating this crisis in Syria and Iraq. I am focusing on this issue right now (Syrian Muslim refugees) because it is the one that a certain political party and it’s candidates for president have seized on to score points and whip up fear and hatred. I’ve never claimed to use this blog to address every issue out there, or to be a place where I am solving all the worlds problems. It is a place for me to comment on relevant topics and things I have a opinion on. If you don’t like to the things I do or don’t write about, no one is forcing anyone to read anything here.

        Finally, I’m not going to get into a spitting match about whose motivations or ideology is wrong or right or poorly motivated or whatever. I am a progressive Christian, I view my faith through a progressive lens. That’s my choice, and this isn’t the space for getting into an argument about how I read the Bible. I think you do the same things you accuse me of, so we are just going to have to agree to disagree about this, and move back to the actual topic of this post.

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      3. It’s not about me dictating what you write or expecting you to know what I want to see written. It’s about finding a politically advantageous topic in which you can demonize the opposition. If you cared so deeply for immigrants and the oppressed over seas, why is this, already politically charged issue, the first one you chose? Which are you using to demonize the oppostion rather than work for a solution. Although you have charged others for fearmongering; between this, calling others xenophobic, or the Trump article, calling out Christians for being unChristian if they support him; it is you doing the fearmongering.

        The Boston bombers while not refugees, were approved by the INS.
        http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2015/11/24/rand-paul-says-boston-bombers-were-coddled-refugees/pxXnTFhG74TKZBAMZXpxJI/story.html

        2 of the 9/11 Bombers while not refugee were approved by INS. http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/03/12/inv.flight.school.visas/

        Most of the bombers in the 1993 World Trade Center attack also came in legally.
        http://cis.org/feere/20-years-later-1993-wtc-attack-and-immigration-failures

        Regardless of the talk points Time repeats from the White House, the FBI director disagrees.
        http://dailycaller.com/2015/10/21/fbi-director-admits-us-cant-vet-all-syrian-refugees-for-terror-ties-video/

        Here is another article pointing the inability to background check someone from a failed state. It also points out the increase cost of bringing them to America (so progressive americans can feel good) is not cost effective and reduces our over all ability to help as many refugees as possible.
        http://cis.org/testimony/Krikorian-Syrian-Refugee-Crisis-Impact-Security-US-Refugee-Admissions-Program

        Pardon my doubt in a bureaucratic system that has trouble finding its own elbow. Moreover, it is doing so when safer solutions exist. They just don’t allow you to demonize the opposition.

        You said, “My wife and I have both indicated that if we did not live in a small two-bedroom apartment, we would be more than willing to provide a temporary home for a refugee.” So burden others? When a rich man with good intentions came to Jesus and asked how to be saved, he reply was to sell everything to the poor and follow him. How can you write an article calling others xenophobic, basing that judgement on the words of Christ and then turn around say this? An American, rich with freedoms and having possession most Syrians only dream of; yet, quickly having an excuse for you personally not being able to take on that burden. Seems as you though you should be judged as you judge others. Or is one of your new ‘non-negotiables’: Its the thought that counts.

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      4. I’m not going to bat articles back and forth. There are thousands out there that prove both our points. Nor am I interested in justifying to you why I write about the topics I write about here. This is my space, I choose to write about things I find interesting or have something to say about. The topics chosen here are certainly not the whole of my topical interests and thoughts in life.

        As for not taking any refugees in: we have a small (less than 700 sq ft) apartment, and the spare room is for my 3 year old son and 1 year daughter. If they are an “excuse” then that’s fine. My “excuse” is I’m not going to make the two of them sleep on the couch. Not to mention my landlord won’t let me just move another person into the space. So it’s certainly not for lack of desire to host; it’s simply logistically impossible for us right now. I don’t know why I’m bothering to justify any of this here, but there you go.

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  2. Stalwart Sam

    Justin,

    You haven’t been responding to any comments lately, so I don’t know if there is even a point to this. Yet, I won’t give up hope, and we’ll make two quick points.

    Over 20,000 terrorist attacks have been carried out in the name of Islam since 2002. Not by Muslims, but specifically as a Muslim action.

    ISIS has declared that they intend to use the refugee program to inflict terrorist attacks on the United States.

    It is the government’s primary responsibility to protect its citizens.

    How is this post not asking the government to violate its core purpose and endangering innocent lives?

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    1. Like I said in the above comment, I’m not advocating a completely open and unregulated process. But declaring we are 100% closing our borders to legitimate refugess from Syria, regardless of their religious background, is unnecessary and is using this crisis as a political moment to advance xenophobic ideas. The US refugee acceptance process is long and rigorous, and I have yet to hear anyone advocating for it to be dismantled and the doors thrown wide open.

      And to implicate the entire Muslim world and Islamic faith for the acts of a few is as wrong as blaming all Christians for Timothy McVeigh, and also unproductive and discriminatory. I have a hard time believing that is what Jesus would be doing if he were here today.

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