Monthly Archives: May 2017

On Refugees: A Plea for Compassion

(I wrote this a few months ago on another site. Re-producing for this site).

Reading discussions of various political issues, I am occasionally reminded that an American-centered worldview is not synonymous with a Christian worldview – nor is even a “conservative” worldview, necessarily. Not every position that might be considered “conservative” – or that is based on the mantra of “America First” – is compatible with a truly Christian worldview, which I consider essential to being right.

There is an enormous, unprecedented refugee crisis in the world today, affecting over 60 million people. In Syria alone, over 11 million out of a population of 22 million have been displaced or killed.

And yet, many professing Christians here in America would rather prioritize their own material comfort and safety, putting up literal and metaphorical walls to keep out these people who are fleeing terrorism. They are seen as a threat and a burden.

This should not be so. Instead, this is an opportunity. An opportunity to carry out Christ’s commands to love our neighbors, especially “the least of these,” and as James said, to minister to widows and orphans, which is essential to true religion. (I am a passionate pro-lifer and we conservatives do a great job on compassionately opposing abortion, but we should also consider how the same principles of compassion, the sanctity of life and the value of every human being, also apply to the refugee crisis). An opportunity to witness to lost souls (many of whom were trapped in repressive regimes with little opportunity to hear the Gospel), and to show the love of Christ to rest of the watching world – how the love of Christ transcends borders and cultures, and casts out fear.

The command to “be not afraid” is one of the most repeated instructions in the Bible. It is certainly legitimate to have concerns and to expect the government to practice prudence. But many of the concerns that have been raised (economic, legal, religious, and security-related) are based on misconceptions, and the fears are overstated.

First, the fact is that the U.S. screening process is one of the strongest in the world – thorough and very strenuous. The likelihood of being killed by a terrorist attack from a refugee in the United States has been calculated at 1 in 3.6 billion.

No refugee, of the three million admitted through the resettlement program since the late 1970s, has committed an act of terrorism within our borders.

Of the domestic terrorist attacks inspired by extremist Islam since 2001, 70% of them were committed by U.S. citizens. In the same time period, about as many people were killed by white supremacist terror attacks as by radical Islamist attacks, and more were killed by dog attacks.

And even if the concerns and fears weren’t overstated or based on misconceptions, the command would still apply. “Be not afraid”, not because there is nothing to fear, but because God says, “I am with you.”

Putting America first over being disciples of Christ is great folly for Christians. To me, it’s astonishing and sad to see so many putting their own fears ahead of helping those who are desperately in need. Please, open your hearts and have compassion for the strangers.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, Mr. Beaver was asked if the lion Aslan – the Christ-figure of the stories – is safe. He replied, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” What’s true of Christ is also true of the Christian life. Safety is fine, and reasonable actions can be taken for protection; but safety can never be the main concern if we are following Christ.

This thought-provoking blogpost by an acquaintance of mine really hits hard:

If we truly loved, as Christ loved us, we wouldn’t be arguing about whether or not we should let refugees into our nation. People’s lives are at stake, and we could do something about it. Many of these people aren’t walking in relationship with the Father, and we could show them how.

Instead, we are afraid of losing our freedoms or being blown up in our own land. As “disciples of Christ,” we are arguing over statistic numbers while thousands are ending up dead.

Can you really call yourself a follower of Christ and refuse refugees?