Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Good Samaritan Keeps Coming to Mind....
Recent discussions of Syrians seeking refugee status in the United States raise serious questions for the Christian. We are called to welcome the stranger in our midst.
The levite and the priest who passed by the injured man were identified by Christ as examples of not loving one's neighbor. Were they callous people, uncaring, lacking in compassion? Perhaps. They may also have thought that they did not have the resources to care for him. Might they have been scared that he would harm them, that his lying there was a trap? Perhaps. We don't know what was happening in the minds and hearts of those who passed the man by.
We do know that the Samaritan was held up as the example of Christian charity.
Yes, we are also called to use good judgement and to protect ourselves and our families. And nations have the right to protect their borders.
But let's consider the plight of the Syrian refugees. The Christians, in particular, have been horribly persecuted. More than 400 of their churches have been destroyed. The St. Eliane Monastery, over 1500 years old, was completely destroyed by ISIS. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been kidnapped. Seventy-four children were executed by ISIS. Children. Two of them were crucified for not fasting during Ramadan and their bodies were put on display.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has reported that children have been tortured, buried alive, used as suicide bombers, and sold as sex slaves.
The people of Syria and Iraq are enduring unspeakable horrors. Is our concern for the possibility of admitting members of ISIS pretending to be Christians or moderate Muslims justified? Somewhat. There is the risk of that happening. We certainly have a right to insist that our government very seriously vet these refugees and to explain in detail what the vetting process is. Is the risk great enough to warrant a refusal to accept any refugees from Syria?
Of all foreign travelers to the U.S. the refugee is given the highest level of scrutiny. The application can take as long as 18-24 months. There are much easier and faster ways to gain admittance to the United States. Let's not forget that the recent attacks in Paris included nationals of Belgium and France, both countries that are visa waiver countries. You don't even need a visa to enter the United States from visa waiver countries. Jihadi John of the infamous beheading video was from the United Kingdom, another visa waiver country. The Tsarnaev brothers from Chechnya came here on tourist visas with their family and their father later sought asylum here. The 9/11 hijackers were here mostly on tourist visas. One had a student visa.
Clearly, not admitting Syrian refugees to this country is not going to prevent jihadists from coming here. They are in numerous countries throughout the world, including this one, and there are other simpler methods available for entering the United States that do not include the scrutiny given the refugee.
The president has proposed that we admit some 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, of which 10,000 would be Syrian. By the end of 2014, Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan had taken in over 3 million refugees. We are talking about 10,000 coming here from Syria.
It's a complicated question that involves very passionate opinions on all sides. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to take in refugees. In the case of Syria, where our Christian brothers and sisters have suffered so horribly, we have a particular obligation.
Is there a risk? Yes. Does our responsibility to be the Samaritan outweigh the danger? I think it does.