Walking Toward Salaam

Image via /

Hate crimes in America dipped across the board in 2014, except in the category of anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14 percent over the prior year. Given the barbaric Islamic State attacks in Paris last week and elsewhere recently, that latter trend seems destined to accelerate.

The presence of hate crimes against Muslims is no new phenomenon. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, there typically recorded between 20-30 hate crime against Muslims per year and after 2001 that number rose to nearly 500.

This summer, we saw the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, N.C. On Nov. 15 in London, a man pushed a Muslim woman into an oncoming underground train. And on Thanksgiving Day, a man in a taxicab in Pittsburgh, Pa., shot his driver in the back for being Muslim.

These incidents do not need to be listed as statistics to validate reality but they do need to be heard.

'Brooklyn' and the Stories That Made America

Still from Brooklyn. Image via Brooklyn Movie on Facebook.

There are many reasons to recommend Brooklyn — its relatable story for one, its glowing visuals and performances for another. But Brooklyn’s commendable qualities go far beyond this, including the amount of respect writer Nick Hornby and director John Crowley give the movie’s female protagonist. Brooklyn is a movie about hard choices, and for the most part, Eilis makes those choices on her own. At different points in the film, she’s caught between romantic relationships, and familial and personal obligations. But in none of these situations does it feel like her hand is forced. The movie lets us know early that Eilis can take care of herself, and she’s never forced to compromise on that point, though she easily could have been.

Although politics aren’t really on Brooklyn’s agenda, the film also carries an unintentional point on that score worth considering. At a time when the United States is anxious about welcoming refugees and immigrants, this film reminds us that our country is made up largely of immigrants — some who look like Eilis, but also many who don’t.

WATCH: The Refugee Screening Process Explained

YouTube / ATTN:

Image via YouTube / ATTN:

“Taking in refugees at a time of crisis is simply the right thing to do.”

These words from Jeh Johnson, the United States Secretary of Homeland Security, are spoken in a recent video released by the new-media news source ATTN: on Nov. 24. Through simple, yet powerful, illustrations, the video debunks the myths of refugee resettlement in the United States, with specific attention to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Let Our Prayer Be More Than a Hashtag

Syrian refugees in Slovenia

Syrian refugees at the Slovenian border in September. Photoman29 /

God’s been telling the story of restoration since Genesis when we were created selem Elohim, in the image of God. We were created into perfect communion with God. From Genesis 3 until the end of the Old Testament, we see a narrative of a people in exile and God giving opportunities for reconciliation and restoration of relationship that humanity is incapable of accepting. Reconciliation is an exchange of something worthless (our condition of sin) for something immeasurably worthy (communion with God).

In the New Testament we see a biblical narrative through Jesus of now-but-not-yet restoration. In Jesus we see the coming of the Kingdom of God and get to be reconciled back to God. We even get a glimpse of an eternity where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

If we truly believe we are the image of God, it changes how we approach the image of God in the world. Our call then is to actively partner with God in taking the world somewhere.

WATCH: Colbert Shows Why GOP Leaders Need to Welcome the Stranger

The GOP leadership really doesn’t want refugees to come to the United States. And Stephen Colbert has a few things to say about that.

Republican leaders in Congress approved a bill Nov. 19 requiring “our nation’s top security officials” to certify that each refugee poses no threat, despite the United States’ already stringent immigration guidelines. Under the guise of “security,” the bill practically functions to severely restrict the number of Syrian refugees able to enter the United States.

How Not To Respond to Grief

Image via Magnus Wennman/

All of us are understandably sad about Paris — devastated. Many people have used striped profile pictures, candles, and flowers to express our collective solidarity. But in the wake of tragedy, almost half of the governors of the U.S. have responded with fear, announcing that they will do whatever they can to thwart the acceptance of Syrian refugees — from cutting funding for nonprofit resettlement agencies, to demanding religious screening tests.

If there’s one thing I learned from some of my friends who are refugees, it’s how to respond to grief. And there’s no one approach and they didn’t always get it right. But sometimes they did: Some refugees, in the shadow of shocking sadness, sang more than usual, prayed louder, invited more friends over for dinner, cooked their parent’s recipes. None of them responded with terrorism.

Evangelical Churches Are Torn About Admitting Refugees to the U.S.

Image via Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS / RNS

Evangelicals may be united that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority, but they are divided on how the Bible would lead us to respond to the growing crisis of refugees fleeing from Syria.

What is the best way to show Christian love and compassion? How is the church’s role different from the state’s? How do we show wisdom and prudence in securing the safety of our neighbors and nation?

These are just a few of the questions that evangelicals are grappling with. One evangelical pastor today told me, “My church members are all over the place on this!”

After Attacks, Muslims in Paris Fear Being Targeted Anew

Image via Elizabeth Bryant / RNS

Shortly after the string of deadly, near-simultaneous attacks around the French capital, Faical Ouertani got a call from distraught friends in Tunisia.

“Their grandchildren were out celebrating a birthday,” the French Muslim said of two youngsters, also Muslims, who were shot by the assailants at a restaurant.

“They were probably among the first victims. Today, one is in the hospital; the other one is dead.”

Christian Groups Censure GOP Over Syrian Refugee Crisis

Image via ekvidi/

Christian groups are strongly condemning the anti-refugee rhetoric coming from top GOP leadership this week, reports POLITICO.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, many in the U.S. media speculated that one or more of the attackers had entered France as refugees from Syria, prompting state senators, governors, and even U.S. presidential candidates for the GOP to vow to close U.S. borders to Syrian refugees altogether.

These statements are being decried by Christians nationwide, including those with more historically conservative positions on immigration and foreign policy.