Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thinking and Praying About the Syrian Refugee Crisis

I was going to put a post up today about how crossing the street in Italy caused me to fear for my life.

That feels so inappropriate in light of all I've read today about the Syrian refugees who have far more dramatic and significant cause to be terrified for their lives, however startling Italian traffic may have been.

Instead, for tonight, I think I want to share a few of the links I've read today. I understand this is an incredibly complex issue that cannot be easily solved, certainly not in a 140-character tweet (though this man admirably tried, and I have to say I snort-laughed over his attempt...it was either that or cry):

In all seriousness, though--I do realize that there's far more nuance than can be communicated in a Facebook status or a 500-word article. What a Christian/church should do is not necessarily the same as what a government should do. I don't know all the answers. But what I do know is that some of what I have been reading has the aroma of Christ...and some of it just does not. At all. I grieve over the posts I have seen with a whole lot of “we’ve gotta look out for number one” and “they/them/those people,” but very little Scripture or empathy or compassion…a whole lot of fear and worry and self-protection, but very little love or courage. 

It’s not a simple argument. Still, I think at minimum, any Christian who is vehemently shouting “CLOSE THE BORDERS!” needs to take a long, hard look at Matthew 25 and the dozens of other Scriptures like it that call us to welcome the stranger, to love, to lay our lives down, to not be afraid. I'm really not sure what we do with those verses, however uncomfortable they may make us...

Should We Really Close the Border to Refugees? Here's Why Fear Drives Out Compassion - Trevin Wax
Fear leads to hatred; courage leads to convictional compassion. And convictional compassion means differentiating between the radical Islamists who would destroy us and peaceful Muslim neighbors who stand with us in deploring such violence.

We are in a war. An unconventional war, of course, but a war nonetheless. Wars always bring out the best and worst in humanity. When future generations look back in time, let us hope they will see that we met these challenges with courage, not fear. In doing so, we obey the most frequent command in the Bible, “Do not be afraid.”

Questions Regarding Waves of Terror and Walking on Water - Shawn Smucker
Protecting ourselves, protecting our best interests, that’s the logical thing to do. Even if it means turning away people with legitimate needs. But it’s not the Christian thing to do.

...It’s actually rather upside-down, rather silly. But that’s the Kingdom of God for you, because the Kingdom of God doesn’t make sense. In the Kingdom of God, we do good for those who hate us. In the Kingdom of God, the smallest of things can move mountains. In the Kingdom of God, we are told to return violence with non-violence. The first will be last, the last first. The meek will inherit the earth. It’s a Kingdom that belongs to the poor in spirit. It’s a Kingdom that doesn’t make any sense.

What does make sense? Well, it would make perfect sense to stop welcoming refugees – after all, they might be ISIS! It would make perfect sense to stop taking in the needy, the orphans, the widows – after all, they might simply become freeloaders! It would make perfect sense to turn our back on those we consider enemy, those we consider other, those we don’t understand. ...It would make perfect sense to turn inward. But it doesn’t make Kingdom sense.

Jen Hatmaker on Facebook:
Let me tell you something, Jesus: LOW BLOW. I do NOT want to see your face in the faces of these complicated, hurting, needy people. When I see a prisoner, I want to see "criminal." When I see the homeless, I want to see "addict." When I see a refugee, I want to see "threat" or at least "financial drain." What I do not want to see is your sweet face.

Why couldn't you identify with more stable people? We like you in the faces of our children and best friends, for example. We like you in our government and in our Family Friendly Movies. We like you in our pretty churches and gated neighborhoods. We do not want to see you in the faces of the poor. That sucks. Now you are really messing with us. You do realize what this sort of holy identification will cost and require, right?

Suspicious of Syrian Refugees Coming to the U.S.? Here's a Reality Check - Janell Ross

Refugees are subject to more scrutiny and background checks that any other group admitted to the United States.  ...simple changes to the order of certain steps in process would leave a robust clearance program in place but eliminate unnecessary redundancies, red tape and difficulties.
What we do know is that extended waits can contribute to the number of people desperate enough to undertake a highly dangerous journey and enter a third country illegally. People in refugee camps cannot legally work. In some camps child mortality rates are alarmingly high and people live in tents. Many others are housed in buildings without heat or running water.
...While...7 in 10 refugees making their way across the Mediterranean are adult men, the overall refugee picture is much more balanced. (The adult-male skew above makes more sense when you consider the danger involved in the journey.) Among the 4.05 million Syrians who have fled their country and then registered with UNHCR (the United Nation's refugee agency), there are actually slightly more women than men. 

No, Thousands of Syrian Refugees Are Not Arriving in New Orleans - Aaron Earls
...do you care about the truth and do you want to undermine your credibility and reputation so conspiracy theorist bloggers can make more money on pop-up ad revenue? ...You cannot lament the dishonesty of mainstream media outlets while promoting and sharing stories from conservative blogs that do nothing but exaggerate, mislead and blatantly lie to push their agenda.

The Islamic State Wants You to Hate Refugees - Adam Taylor
What seems almost certain is that the Islamic State wants you to equate refugees with terrorists. In turn, it wants refugees to equate the West with prejudice against Muslims and foreigners.

Immigration Policy Must Be Based On More Than an Appeal to Compassion - Kevin DeYoung
[much helpful balance and nuance here, which I am able to hear and consider when it is prefaced with "I too am turned off by the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric that sounds more like Pharaoh in Exodus 1 than the “love the sojourner” commands in Deuteronomy 10. It is a commendable response to see hurting people and think, 'Let’s do all we can to help.'" YES. Thank you.]

...The issue of immigration—both for those inside the country already and for those wanting to get in—is bound to be a pressing political, international, and humanitarian concern for many years. We need Christian writers, thinkers, pastors, scholars, and activists to be a part of the conversation. My plea is that the conversation reflect the complexity of the situation and goes beyond the familiar dichotomies of love versus hate, inclusion versus exclusion, and fear versus compassion. There are too many important things, and too many human lives, at stake to move quite so quickly from solid Christian principles to simple policy prescriptions.

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