by Kristin Wright, Director of Advocacy at Open Doors USA
Syrian refugees – and whether or not to welcome them to United States – have been the topic of a massive national debate over the past several days.
As the advocacy director for Open Doors USA, I’m based here in Washington DC, and I’ve been listening to a broad array of perspectives on this issue in our city. National security is a paramount issue for Americans, and understandably so. But as Christians, we’re also called to lovingly welcome the stranger in our midst. In Deuteronomy 10:19 we read that God “enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.” (CEB)
For many evangelicals, these two concerns have been the source of much prayer and soul searching as they seek the right approach to the refugee issue.
While Open Doors is working to help enable many Christians to stay in their homeland, providing both practical and spiritual support, not everyone is able to stay. The reality is that many Christians are among the vast numbers of refugees fleeing from Iraq and Syria.
As Open Doors supporters, you’re at the forefront of firsthand information on the persecuted church around the world.
Many of you have taken trips and visited persecuted believers in countries throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and beyond. Many of you pray for the persecuted church on a daily basis. You know firsthand the horrendous persecution faced by Christian families in volatile places like Iraq and Syria.
That’s why I wanted to share some information and considerations about a bill that just passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
H.R. 4038, which passed by a 289 to 137 vote, suspends the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees – including persecuted Christians – into the U.S., until the heads of the FBI and Department of National Security, in addition to the Director of National Intelligence, can personally certify that each incoming refugee does not represent any form of threat to the United States.
Proponents of the bill see this additional screening as helpful and timely. Many supporters of the bill are referring to it simply as a “pause” in refugee resettlement.
But opponents of the legislation are concerned that requiring top officials such as the head of the FBI and head of the Department of National Security to be personally involved in thousands of individual refugee applications might result in the suspension of the program for a very lengthy period of time – perhaps years – in the midst of a global refugee crisis.
As you prayerfully consider your perspective on whether or not the U.S. should welcome refugees from Syria and Iraq at this point in time, I want to encourage you to personally read more about the security process that refugees go through in order to enter the United States.
The following resources are a good place to start in order to understand the current refugee security process better:
It’s important to consider, too, that closing the door on Syrian and Iraqi refugees (for any amount of time) also means closing the door on persecuted Christians. Will we continue to be a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds? Or will we close our doors?
Let’s prayerfully consider the ramifications of this legislation as we seek to support and encourage those facing persecution throughout the world.
Here’s one thought that I want to touch on in my next blog post:
During the House hearing I attended ahead of yesterday’s vote, I heard this question repeated several times by members of Congress: “Can we welcome refugees with zero risk?”
The simple answer – even if we layer on hundreds of additional layers of security – is no.
That’s only because there are risks everywhere. It’s taking a risk to allow anyone, from any country in the world, into our country. It’s a risk for any of us to invite a neighbor into our home, to welcome a refugee, to offer a helping hand to a child.
The last time I saw Brother Andrew, he encouraged me with these words, “Often people conclude a conversation with ‘take care,’ but maybe what we should be saying is, ‘take risks.’”
What are your thoughts?