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.