Last week a travesty occurred in Paris, France. People died at the hands of genuine evil. What should happen now? On that it seems no one can agree. It is a clear teaching of Scripture that Christians should encourage compassionate responses to the poor and needy. It is also a clear teaching of Scripture that we are not to be foolish in such endeavors. The question is not should we be compassionate but how to do so wisely. Let me take a little time to explain why our government had already found a way to do it wisely and why I believe the USA needs to continue its acceptance of Syrian refugees.
The first important piece of information is the data from the UN on the Syrian refugees. The data shows that only 22% of registered refugees are males from 18-59. That means only 1 in 4 refugees matches the age and gender markers many correlate to a "potential terrorist." The other 78% of registered refugees are female, children, or elderly. This is an overwhelming number of people who do not match our fear profile. These are the real people running from their homes out of fear of rape, death, or incidental bombing. Some of these refugees would have been Syrian brothers and sisters in Christ had they not all been decapitated or worse.
Forget whatever viral video you have seen on this issue. There are certainly a crazy amount of unregistered refugees doing crazy things. But no one is proposing that unregistered refugees be accepted in the United States or anywhere else. Wisdom tells us that we should ensure these refugees be registered. That is being done. But what of these questionable 22%? What is being done to ensure that the entire lot of them are not ISIS wolves in sheep clothing?
ENTRY INTO THE USA
The fear of most American citizens revolves around even a single person from this 22% performing some form of domestic terrorism. It does not take many bad apples to ruin the bunch ... or so the saying goes. But once again we need to understand the process of bringing refugees into the country. The refugees coming into the USA are not giving a free pass or red carpet intro. They go through many inspections,
“Once the US State Department receives their case files it employs NGO contractors to pre-screen them for eligibility for refugee status, then they are subjected to health and security checks. Each case file is reviewed by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI's terrorist screening center, the DHS, the Department of Defense and "other agencies" -- US intelligence.
This is not some crazy "get them all in" type of scheme. No one is arguing for that position. The present reality is that there are legitimate measures in place to bring refugees into this country. This is not a "get here and get in" policy. Many of these refugees are running away from ISIS. The last thing they want is for the USA to become a more dangerous place. Refugees who register and submit themselves to inspections should not be excluded because of fear.
With these other two points made, we can now discuss how Christians should respond to refugees. There are two really poor sides of this debate. The first would be the blind acceptance of all refugees. The second would be the blind rejection of all refugees. The reality must be somewhere in the middle. From a governmental procedure perspective, they have already achieved this middle ground. But citizens at large seem to be oscillating.
Arguments over the word "neighbor" have been foolish. Let us remember that Christ's teaching on "neighbor" came after a man sought to justify himself by limiting who his neighbor was (Luke 10:29). When we attempt to prioritize our neighbors by proximity, race, gender, or religion, we are merely retaining the word without its Biblical meaning. James taught us about the sinfulness of favoritism (Jam 2:1-7).
Another prevailing idea seems to be that treating our "Syrian neighbors" in a Biblical manner would mean setting aside our "American neighbors." But this is patently false. There is no conflict between our two neighbors. Both are seeking safety and distance from ISIS. The real conflict exists because there may be wolves among the sheep. This is something that the established vetting process of refugees would hopefully catch. But it will not be perfect.
Is that where we as Christians are to live? Are we so fearful of a less than 100% vetting process that we are willing to reject masses of needy people? This kind of fear is crippling. It is quite illogical.
I hope that many of my Christian brothers and sisters who think it wise to reject refugees were simply unaware of the statistics and procedures mentioned. It is quite possible that ISIS will make it into this country and commit an act of terror. But as it stands you are more likely to be crushed by your TV than die through terrorism. Let's research our government's procedures. Let's realize that the majority of the refugees that would enter our country are not the "potential terrorists" that we fear. We have already been wisely accepting refugees into this country. So let's stop the fear induced whiplash.