The world seems to be witnessing increasing levels of violence, fear, and hatred that challenge us each day. There are ongoing debates about how or whether to welcome immigrants and refugees to the United States; news headlines remind us about the plight of Syria and about the horrors of the Islamic State.
In such times, talk about mercy may seem more like wishful thinking. But mercy matters – now more than ever.
A Catholic priest who fled to the U.S. from war-torn Vietnam as a youth has written to President Trump, offering to surrender his American citizenship so that the president could confer it on a Syrian refugee, who would be barred under Trump’s controversial order banning travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries.
The Rev. Chuong Hoai Nguyen, a member of the Salesian order, also told Trump he would ask his religious superiors for permission to go live and work in one of the seven countries on the banned list.
No president should be allowed, without any justifiable warrant, to deny the free exercise of their religious convictions, especially when those actions serve not their own interests, but the displaced, suffering millions of strangers in the world longing for welcome.
While the ban remains inactive after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the U.S. government’s request to resume travel restrictions, legal challenges by Trump’s administration will continue. Christians must join in solidarity with our refugee brothers and sisters and continue to denounce both the ideology and methodology of the ban.
This anti-Asian xenophobia is both individual and institutional in that it shapes our governmental policies. Although Japanese Americans as whole were unjustly incarcerated in World War II, an act deemed unconstitutional, Trump and his advisors employ historic internment as a rationale for detaining current minority groups.
When our desire for security is so great that it diminishes our humanity and our capacity, or willingness, to see the world through the eyes of another, we lose a precious part of who we were designed to be. Our hearts are hardened, calcified.
Most parents wonder if what they teach their children is sinking in, if the values they try to model are becoming part of their character.
Zahra’a’s parents don’t have to wonder. The first thing she did when her family received their packet of relief aid — the first aid they’d received in three years of displacement and conflict — was to turn to our staff member, whom she’d never met before, and invite him to lunch.
In the three days since the Trump administration announced an “extreme vetting” process for refugees — and failed to communicate the terms of his order with government agencies, resulting in confusion and an immediate denial of entry to many refugees and green card holders with visas — groups from international corporations to immigration attorneys have stepped up to register their concern.
I want to ask: Where is Jesus when you call for a ban and a wall? But the answer is clear. Jesus is with them: the ones we’ve turned away, the ones we allow to suffer out of fear and hate. Jesus is holding the hand of the scared child being detained in an airport backroom. Jesus is breaking bread with our neighbors on the far side of the wall and our siblings seeking refuge across the world. And Jesus is saying to us, “come and follow me.”
For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “ keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people.
“A New Father, Awe-Struck” is a new hymn-prayer written days before Christmas 2016. It begins with a traditional image of a manger scene, and becomes a prayer that we may look deeper— at our loving God who chose to come into this world as someone who was poor, powerless, in danger, and a refugee.
“This is one of the most difficult days in Aleppo’s history,” Ibrahim Abdul Laith told Sojourners over a series of WhatsApp voice notes. “We endured difficulties under the shelling, and under the siege, but even though the situation was difficult, we were fighting for our city.”
Later in the messages, his voice took on a somber tone.
“Now we are being asked to leave.”
On Dec. 19 the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Ankara, Turkey, reports Reuters. The ambassador was giving a speech at an art gallery when a gunman fatally shot him. Three other people were also wounded and the gunman appears to have been killed.
“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” the gunman shouted after the shooting.
The U.S. State Department warned that religion-based terrorists as well as some governments across the globe are threatening the liberties of religious minorities.
“One of the best ways to deny these murderers their victory is by ensuring that those they have sought to destroy not only survive, but thrive,” said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announcing the 2015 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on Aug. 10.
Pope Francis had lunch with 21 Syrian refugees at his private residence at the Vatican on Thursday, sending a powerful message to those in the West fervently opposed to welcoming those forced to flee the war-torn nation.
The Vatican’s chief media spokesman, Greg Burke, said the pope’s lunch guests included the Syrian families who returned to Italy with him from the Greek island of Lesbos aboard the papal plane after his official visit there in April.
David Cameron stepped down from his role as prime minister of the United Kingdom on July 13, as he had announced after the Brexit vote.
In his resignation speech in front of 10 Downing Street, the traditional residence of the prime minster, Cameron called his tenure “the greatest honor” of his life. He will continue to serve in parliament as a representative of Witney.
The call went out for 600 volunteers to make care packages for Syrian refugees. Nearly 1,000 Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus answered it.
They formed assembly lines June 26 at the historic 69th Regiment Armory in lower Manhattan and stuffed toothpaste, nail clippers, soap, hand towels, condoms, washable menstrual pads, and other personal hygiene products into plastic bags to send to camps in Turkey for refugees of Syria’s civil war.
Ask Wah Nay Htoo how an evangelical church helped her refugee family after they arrived in Colorado and her list is long.
“Oh my goodness, Cornerstone helped our family a lot — everything,” said Htoo, 38, a Burmese woman who lived most of her life in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving to the Denver suburb of Lafayette in 2008.
A group of Republicans in the House of Representatives is working on legislation to ban all refugees from settling in the United States, reports Foreign Policy.
While the proposed legislation sounds similar to Donald Trump’s proposal to block immigration from all “areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism,” the refugee ban makes no distinctions based on country of origin.