The ISIS attack on Paris was an act of terror that has shaken many to the core, and rightly so. It was a tragedy that left hundreds of grieving families in Paris, and that shook their nations’ sense of security and safety. When something of this magnitude happens, it is normal to look at ways to prevent another attack. And in the wake of this violence, France has closed it’s border to refugees, and our country is following suit. More than half the nation's governors in the US say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. However, this knee-jerk reaction to reject refugees from Syria is misplaced on a number of levels.
1. It’s the wrong target.
Syrian refugees are trying to escape the terror of radical Islam. They probably hate ISIS more than we can comprehend. Lumping the Syrian refugees in with ISIS because they share a homeland is like assuming that the Jews fleeing Germany shared Nazi ideals because they were from the same country. It’s vital to understand the history and religious divisions happening in Syria. Not all Muslims are the same, and in fact, ISIS is extremely interested in eradicating the world of the “wrong” kind of Muslim . . . which is one of the reasons so many people are fleeing.
In addition, ISIS has been clear that it’s followers should NOT be fleeing Syria. . An Islamic State speaker explained in a recent video how Muslims should be leaving lands of the “infidel” for the lands of Islam, but not the other way around. Radical Muslims are instructed to live in a land where the shari’ah is enforced. They are not the ones seeking refuge in the US.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations recently said, "Defeating ISIS involves projecting American ideals to the world. Governors who reject those fleeing war and persecution abandon our ideals and instead project our fears to the world." Denying asylum to those seeking safety from the terror of ISIS is capitulating to terrorism. If we feel compassion for those harmed in France, we should also feel compassion for those harmed in Syria, and extend a hand to them.
2. It’s not a free-for-all.
Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011. The Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed entry next year. A recent article in The Economist discusses the vetting process for refugees . . . one that I can attest to having adopted a refugee:
They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and international intelligence agencies.
3. It’s unconstitutional.
It’s disheartening to hear so many state governors stating their commitment to refuse aid to Syrian refugees specifically, but it’s especially egregious given that so many of these governors have fought for constitutional adherence on other matters. States have no authority to deny refugees because the question of who should be allowed in this country is one that the Constitution commits to the federal government. (source) Our politicians should not be selective about constitutional rights, citing them when it is advantageous to a certain viewpoint and then throwing them out when it’s convenient.
4. It’s antithetical to our country’s values.
5. It’s immoral and unconscionable.
People are dying. Children are dying. There is a genocide happening. The the conflict in Syria has claimed more than 200,000 lives and displaced more than half the population. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum calls it “one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.” We, as a nation, have always held to a responsibility to protect other nations whose governments can’t or won’t protect their own. Offering refuge is one avenue to protecting the Syrian people, the same way we have offered asylum to other people groups who have been victimized by genocide. Turning our backs on Syrians because of our own xenophobia around their religion or culture is morally repugnant.
6. It’s unbiblical.
It’s ironic to me that so many of the people who insist that this country needs to hold to it’s Christian values are somehow muting the scriptures on this issue. I’m going to let the Bible do the talking on this one:
“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” — Deuteronomy 10:19
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Hebrews 13:2
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” - Matthew 25:41-45
See also Jeremiah 22:3-5; Zechariah 7:8-10; Isaiah 16:4; and James 2:5.
Personally, I am embarrassed by the United States politicians who are so gleefully renouncing help to the Syrian people. If anything, the attack on Paris should make us more sympathetic to their plight. France had a night of terror. These people have been living in this terror for five years. They deserve our compassion and our help.