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Is There Only One Christian Response to Syrian Refugee Crisis?

Is it wrong for Christians to consider reasons to not admit Syrian refugees? Many believe it is and are denouncing Christians who believe otherwise, especially politicians.

“After the terror attacks in Paris last week, it didn’t take long for the League of Super Christians currently running for president to begin contradicting everything Jesus and every prophet in the Bible ever uttered about extending grace to the poor, the refugee, the destitute and the strangers among us,” wrote Tony Norman, a professing Christian and columnist with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Looking around for an issue to demagogue, a good chunk of the presidential field and a bunch of Republican governors decided that the 10,000 Syrian refugees America has already agreed to take in now represent an unacceptable terrorist threat.”

Similarly, an article at Think Progress accused Christian governors who are refusing refugees of being hypocritical and asserted “that’s not what Jesus would do.” Citing Matthew 25:41-43, the article said the Bible calls on Christians to “welcome the stranger.”

Certainly, the Bible includes multiple references in the New and Old Testament to “love (the foreigner) as yourself” and even to “love your enemy.” So, these journalists have a point. I also appreciate the admonition by Christian leaders like Stephan Bauman, CEO and President of World Relief, to “ground ourselves in love and open our arms to these refugees.” Similarly, Rich Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. said, “Instead of fearfully turning away from Syrian refugees, we need to see the amazing opportunity we have to show the love of Christ. This is an unprecedented moment for the church.”

Certainly, this should be Christians’ general attitude and posture concerning refugees. However, does this mean it’s wrong for Christian policy-makers to consider the security risks refugees might pose and balance those with Scripture’s admonition to be welcoming?

I appreciated Pastor Kevin DeYoung’s balanced comments this week, published by the Gospel Coalition. “The answer is not as easy as fear versus compassion,” DeYoung wrote. “Christian charity means loving the safety of the neighbor next door at least as much as loving the safe passage of the neighbor far away.”

DeYoung is right. Christians, and especially government leaders, have a moral obligation to love not only foreigners, but their citizens, as well. Unfortunately, the Syrian refugee crisis may be one of those situations where these two valid concerns are in conflict.

Christian leaders like Bauman are assuring Americans that they have nothing to fear from Syrian refugees: “Each refugee who comes to the United States has undergone a thorough vetting and security screening that generally lasts at least 18 months.” Yet another prominent Christian leader, Franklin Graham, President and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, is sounding the alarm. “We cannot allow Muslim immigrants to come across our borders unchecked while we are fighting this war on terror. If we continue to allow Muslim immigration, we’ll see much more of what happened in Paris — it’s on our doorstep.”

Certainly, anytime America opens its doors to immigrants, she is exposing the country to risk. But, she’s also acting in accordance with her national ethos, which is rooted in Judeo-Christian values. The question is how much risk is acceptable and specifically, how much risk do the Syrian refugees pose?

I think at least asking that question is valid. After all, God established nations in the Old Testament, which as Danny Carroll, the national spokesperson on immigration for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference says, “suggests that borders are important.” If you have a nation and you have a border, then you must necessarily have stipulations for entering that border. And, those stipulations must take into account both the interest of immigrant and the resident.

Syrian and Afghan refugees fall into the sea after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. Of the record total of 432,761 refugees and migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, an estimated 309,000 people had arrived by sea in Greece, the International Organization for Migration said on Friday. About half of those crossing the Mediterranean are Syrians fleeing civil war, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Bauman is correct that the U.S. thoroughly screens refugees, checking databases for their names and fingerprints. However, Syria is a failed state and doesn’t have any fingerprint databases to check. Plus, as FBI Director James Comey said at a hearing last month, “If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”

Still, the process of immigrating to the U.S. as a refugee can take up to three years and likely would not be the preferred path for a terrorist to enter our country. As an editorial published by the CATO Institute notes, terrorists normally enter countries on student visas, tourist visas, or business visas — or as asylum seekers, who are vetted after already gaining admittance into a country.

Still, there is another solution that poses less risk not only to the U.S., but also to refugees. Graham is urging the U.S. to establish safe havens within Syria for those fleeing the violence. “This would allow Syrians fleeing from areas of conflict inside the country to find safety, food, medicine, and shelter, and stay within their borders, nearer their homes, until a political and military settlement has been reached,” he said. He added that most refugees he has worked with want to stay in their homeland, rather than find a new home elsewhere. “As we have all seen, fleeing to another country adds great risk to their lives and exposes the refugees to exploitation by unscrupulous people who deal in human trafficking.”

The State Department’s most recent report on International Religious Freedom supports Graham’s assertion, stating that “for most refugees, safe, voluntary return to their homelands was the preferred solution.”

Similarly, Kristin Wright, advocacy director at Open Doors USA, said, “We are hearing from Christians on the ground in the Middle East that many wish to stay in their homeland, and we want to strengthen the Christians who remain in these volatile areas.”

Of course, if something isn’t done to not only contain, but eradicate ISIS, this steady flow of refugees will only increase. As a nation, we must address eliminating ISIS as part of our response to this crisis. Of course, after considering all positions and facts, Christians may come to different conclusions on a proper response. But, I would hope that we would exhibit the same charity towards each other that we should exhibit towards Syrian refugees. Let’s allow each other to have different convictions on this matter without calling into question each other’s motives and Christianity.

Original article can be read here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/syrian-refugee-crisis-christian-response-migrants-fleeing-isis-150477/

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‘Their Lives Matter to God.’ Faith Leaders’ Strong Reaction to Refugee Ban

Days after signing an executive order temporarily halting America’s refugee program, President Donald Trump is defending himself against accusations that the ban is aimed at Muslims.

Among his critics is Dr. Samuel Rodriguez. The president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was present for Trump’s inauguration, marking the occasion with a passage from the Bible.

“From the Gospel of Matthew the fifth chapter: God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,” declared Rodriguez.

A Letter to Trump

Two weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, Rodriguez and seven other Christian leaders are urging Mr. Trump to reconsider his refugee policy.

In a letter to the president, the eight said: “The Bible teaches us that each person – including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier – is made in the image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us.”

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, also spoke on Inauguration Day.

He supports the president’s decision, but insists that it is the responsibility of the Church, not the government, to come to the aid of refugees.

“The president’s job is not the same as the job of the Church. As Christians we are clearly taught in the Bible to care for the poor and oppressed,” Graham wrote in a Facebook post.

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order stopping people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

“This Is Not a Ban on Muslims”

That set off a firestorm of criticism against the president’s move, forcing his administration to push back on accusations that the ban targeted Muslims.

“This is not, I repeat, not a ban on Muslims,” insisted John Kelly, secretary of Homeland Security. “The Homeland Security mission is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, our values — and religious liberty is one of our most fundamental and treasured values.”

Still, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says enforcing the travel ban could have been handled better.

“It’s regrettable that there was some confusion on the roll-out of this,” Ryan said. “No one wanted to see people with green cards or special immigrant visas, like translators, get caught up in this.”

Worldwide Protests

In Hong Kong and elsewhere, people took to the streets demonstrating against the travel ban.

“The hateful policies he proposed are totally against the U.S. Constitution, and the tradition of the Americans,” Leung Kwok-hung, a Hong Kong legislator, said.

He joined others outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, chanting “No ban, no wall!” as they vented their anger against what they called “a hateful policy.”

“We support the Americans. If Donald Trump does not correct his racism policies, and hateful policies against religion, he must step down,” Leung said.

In Paris, hundreds also protested near the U.S. Embassy, with some carrying posters demanding, “No hate, no racism, no Trump” and “Make American free again.”

“We really hope that there will be a stop to his order and that all will resume its course,” said one Parisian.

“We Have No Idea About Our Fate”

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 27,000 Syrian refugees were being considered for resettlement to the U.S. just before the executive order was signed.

Feras Zahka was one of them.

“During the U.S. elections, we were afraid because of Trump’s threats against refugees,” said Zahka, who escaped with his family from Syria. “Now we hear he {Trump} is not willing to receive us anymore.”

The 35-year-old Syrian is now stranded in Istanbul, Turkey, facing an uncertain future.

“We have no idea about our fate; we shall just keep waiting,” he said.

Zahka, like so many other refugees from the Middle East, has been working with various groups like the International Organization for Migration and International Catholic Migration Commission to move to the U.S. Friday’s executive order has brought those plans to a screeching halt.

“I have tried to contact ICMC (International Catholic Migration Commission) to ask them about my refugee application’s status since I have friends who started the application procedure at the same time I did, and they are already in the U.S. since September,” Zahka said. “ICMC’s reply was that I have to wait for the security approval.”

Zakha is from Damascus and has been living in Turkey for the last three years. He’s a Christian and is hoping his religious background will help with his asylum case.

“Although I do not like mentioning religious issues, being a Christian makes me lucky and gives me some hope since Trump has made some promises for Christian minorities being accepted for immigration,” Zakha said. “If that does not work either, then my application might change to another country, or I might just keep waiting.”

Meanwhile, 872 people who were previously screened by the Obama administration but prevented from entering under the ban, will now be allowed into the United States this week.

Original post can be read here: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/february/their-lives-matter-to-god-what-faith-leaders-are-saying-about-refugee-ban

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