Saturday, December 12, 2015

DNR Op Ed: We Must Accept Syrian Refugees

I appreciate the Daily News-Record publishing this piece today, one I submitted early last week:
No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well
Your neighbours running faster than you
Breath bloody in their throats...
You only leave home
When home won’t
let you stay.

excerpt from “Home” 

by Somali poet Warsan Shire
photo by the Independent
Many of us have been moved by recent images of Syrians desperately seeking asylum from the terror of war and the wholesale destruction of their homes and communities. These are not immigrants seeking a more prosperous future, but traumatized individuals and families who have lost hope for any future in their war-ravaged homeland.
They are fellow human beings, children of God who have experienced unimaginable trauma. What should be our response as people with a passionate love for God and a compassionate love toward our neighbors?
We cannot, of course, open our borders to everyone. But can we close our borders to an entire group of fellow human beings in need, and primarily on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or national origin? What if, God forbid, we ourselves would one day be forced to seek refuge wherever people would be willing to take us in?
After all, most of our ancestors were once either needy immigrants seeking a better life or persecuted refugees fleeing danger and oppression.
I agree there is always a measure of risk involved in opening our doors to homeless foreigners, even though Jews and Christians have always been taught to welcome the alien and stranger (Deuteronomy 10:18-19), and the Koran teaches adherents to “do good to the neighbor who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer” (4:36). On this issue there are simply no risk-free options. We cannot turn our backs on desperately needy men, women and children without harming our cause and jeopardizing our own security.
In a recent speech in the House of Representatives, Republican Steve Russell of Oklahoma warned that our turning away Syrian refugees would hand a major victory to Islamic State jihadists.
Ever more citizens of Muslim countries who have suffered death and dismemberment from U.S. bombs and drone strikes would now have an additional reason to hate us, as well as to reject the faith we stand for. If we who claim to be followers of Jesus refuse hospitality to those fleeing the very terrorism we denounce, how can we maintain credibility?
For this reason and others, Rep. Russell, a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a 21-year career soldier, laments the rising tide of anti-refugee rhetoric, along with moves by numerous governors to bar fleeing migrants.
“America is a lamp that lights the horizon of civilized and free mankind,” Russell declared. “The Statue of Liberty cannot have a stiff arm. Her arm must continue to keep the torch burning brightly. If we use our passions, anger, and fear to snuff out her flame by a xenophobic and knee-jerk policy, the enemy wins. We have played into their hands, period.”
Russell also observed there is a robust, though never perfect, system in place for vetting refugees, one that would make coming into the U.S. through that process too cumbersome and time-consuming for would-be terrorists. He also expressed concern over some similarity between today’s anti-refugee rhetoric and views held during World War II by a majority of Americans toward Jews fleeing Nazis in Europe. To our shame, we turned away thousands of such asylum seekers, fearing there would be communist sympathizers among them.
The congressman went on to say, “We must not become them (ISIL terrorists). They win if we give up who we are. …  We must be watchful. We have to have each other’s back and be alert to dangers around us. We must speak up when we see something unusual. By maintaining who we are amidst the threat, amidst the hatred, amidst the trials, we win. Patrick Henry did not say, ‘Give me safety or give me death.’”
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