4,289,792 Refugees

The telecom company I work for spends a lot of time and money trying to tell the difference between good and bad traffic.  Bad traffic (i.e. malicious attacks) can have a crippling effect on our network.  The easiest thing to do would be to indiscriminately block all traffic from suspicious sources.

The debate around Syrian refugees reminds me of this problem of differentiating between good and bad traffic.  As I've observed this conversation play out in both the social and traditional media, I've become more and more disheartened to witness how quickly we can lose sight of the whole picture and become hyper-focused on the negative elements.  Some seem willing to allow a few suspect elements deter us from doing what's good and right for many others.

Before I go further, let me lay out what I believe should be undisputed assertions about the Syrian crisis:

  1. Before the civil war, the population of Syrian was around 22 million.  (World Bank)
  2. Since then, roughly half of the population has been displaced from their homes. Not all displaced have left the country.  (Mercury Corps)
  3. 4,289,792 of the displaced are registered in one of many UN run camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.  (UNHCR)
  4. Of those, 1,647,281 (or 41%) are under the age of 11.
  5. More refugees, often due to camp conditions, choose to not live in UN camps and are not counted in the 4 million.  (National ReviewMercury Corps)
  6. Before the war, roughly 10% of the Syrian population was Christian.  (CIA World Factbook)  (Note: Given the nature of the Syrian crisis, it would be reasonable to surmise that a larger percentage of Christians have been displaced.)
  7. A certain, unknown percentage of the refugees have malicious intentions to harm their eventual host countries.
Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan (http://lorenabrownlee.com/)

So what's the right response to this refugee crisis?  I understand and agree that we have a duty to protect our immediate family and our country; but, surely, we, a nation at least founded by refugees based on Christian ideals, are not saying that because of the threat posed by a few, we are willing to turn away help for the 10 million displaced, 4.2 million refugees in UN camps, including 1.6 million children.  Let us not forget that these are victims who are not just homeless but countryless.  

Even if we allow that there's a risk with indiscriminately allowing refugees into our country, we must look for other ways to help these victims.
  1. Support the organizations serving these refugees in the camps to improve the camp conditions.  Here are but a few organizations:
  2. Though much of the debate involves refugee resettlement process in partnership with the UN, that is NOT the only option.  Private resettlement remains a viable option.
  3. Travel abroad and volunteer at one of these refugee camps
Arguments and Responses
Let me now address some of the arguments I've seen against helping these refugees:
  1. We have a duty first to the safety of our nation.  Does that mean we stop the dialogue there?  Or do we continue to seek other means of helping these refugees?  
  2. We should care for our veterans first.  I agree that our nations owes our veterans much better care than we've given.  However, why must our veterans be pitted against our humanitarian care of refugees?  Why not divert that money from the bullet train in California or the new building bearing a senator's name?  (I don't actually know that there is such a building.)
  3. Middle Easterner should take care of their own.  While our compassion may have priorities based on proximity, I refuse to believe that our compassion stops at our borders.
Christian Response
It grieves me to see the number of Christians who've taken a blanket position against resettling any refugees in the U.S.  Brethren, before taking these positions, prayerfully study the situation.  The Syrian church is a persecuted church.  Before the war, 10% of the Syrian population was Christian.  Today, we can assume it's much less since entire Christian villages have been wiped out by ISIS.  Those who have survived face even greater hardship than other refugees.  When we turn away refugees in the name of safety, we turn away our own brethren.  I understand the need to protect our country and our immediate family, but does that mean we shouldn't show hospitality to our spiritual family?  Scripture has much to say about caring for foreigners (especially in the OT) and showing hospitality.  I read very little about being safe.
  • Share with the saints in their needs;  pursue hospitality. (Ro 12:13)
  • Let brotherly love  continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.  (Heb 13:1–2)
  • Be hospitable  to one another without complaining.  (1 Pe 4:9)
I know that strong feelings exist on this issue.  In our haste to block bad traffic, let us not be too quick to block all traffic.  Rather than adding fuel to the fire, my hope is that we will consider additional factors in our positions.  Even as we value our safety, let us find ways to show love and compassion to a people who have already suffered so much.

Dear Heavenly Father,
May we share in Your grief for the people of Syria.  Lord, as they suffer in the shadow of darkness, may Your people be the light.  May we, the children of God, reflect Your light be caring for these foreigners.  Lord, give us the wisdom and the conviction to express our love for You by caring for Your beloved.  May our leaders be wise in their choices.  May our resources be used in a way that reflects our values, that is, Your values.

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