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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.

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