An American Christian response to the refugee crisis

-A A +A
By Randy Patrick

It’s ironic that the outcry against allowing Syrian refugees into this country coincided with Thanksgiving, when we Americans express our gratitude to God for his blessings, and Advent, when we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Prince of Peace.

The response by many who call themselves American Christians could not be more at odds with the gospel of Jesus or the traditions of this country.

The Pilgrims were separatists from the state-sponsored Church of England who fled — first to Holland, and then to North America — to find freedom. They were religious and political refugees.

They were soon followed by the French Huguenots, who escaped persecution by the Catholic Church.

In the last century, the United States was a haven for Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, as well as political refugees from places like El Salvador and Vietnam.

That’s who we are as a nation and have been from the beginning.

There were some who didn’t get it.

Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1855 that when the Know-Nothings gained power, they would rewrite the nation’s creed to say that “all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When that happened, he said, he would prefer to emigrate to some country where people make no pretense of loving liberty. Fortunately, the Know-Nothings (the anti-immigrant American Party) never governed our republic.

Today, more than four million Syrians are fleeing the chaos in their land, where people are caught between the terror of ISIS and the tyranny of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Turkey is taking in half of them, Lebanon and Jordan most of the rest. Germany is accepting about 100,000, and France’s president, Francois Hollande, responded to the recent ISIS-inspired slaughter of Parisians by saying his country would accept another 24,000 refugees. Yet in the United States, where President Barack Obama announced we would take in 10,000 Syrian refugees — mostly the elderly, women and children —there has been widespread hostility.

Since the recent shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., an alarming number of hate crimes against American Muslims have been reported around the country.

When did America cease to be the beacon of liberty and charity to all the world that the Puritan John Winthrop envisioned as a shining City Upon a Hill?

I can understand the fear of hatred and violence, especially after the atrocities in France and California. But as followers of Christ, we are not supposed to live in fear. We must be prepared to lose everything, including our lives, for the sake of the Gospel.

In Iraq, Christians have been crucified or beheaded for their beliefs. But, by far, most of the victims of the Islamic State have been Muslims.

St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15 that when we surrender ourselves to God, we are not given a spirit that enslaves us to fear. And Jesus said perfect love casts out fear. The word “love” is sometimes translated as “charity.”

The Old Testament tells God’s people time and again that they should welcome foreigners and not mistreat them, for they “were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21)

And how could Christians forget that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were political refugees who escaped Herod’s campaign of genocide by their flight to Egypt? And as a rabbi, Jesus was persecuted and executed by the Roman Empire.

The Scriptures say we should help those in dire need. The “sin of Sodom” was that her people “were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekial 16:49)

Who could be needier than these people?

Of course, our government should screen refugees, especially those coming from Syria and Iraq, where terrorist groups are most active.

Of course they should be monitored closely.

Of course, no one who is on a terror watch list should be allowed to travel here, and if they’re from here, they shouldn’t be permitted to buy a gun or board a plane.

But to say, as so many have, that no Muslims should be allowed to come into this country, or to turn our backs on innocents who are running for their lives, is wrong.

It is un-Christian and un-American.