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.
If we count up the number of people killed or wounded in the ISIS Paris slaughter last weekend, and add all their families and friends, the level of human mourning is staggering. Then include the many other victims murdered in Beirut just days before, or the legions of those raped and killed in Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Turkey — who never receive the same attention as Western victims — and we see human devastation that is utterly evil.
From a religious perspective, the hardest thing about confronting evil is the painful human tendency to only see it in others, in our enemies, and not see any on our side because of the blurred vision caused by the specks in our own eyes, to paraphrase the gospels. In discussing ISIS, we should clearly use the language of sin, the enormous sin of the ideological hate of ISIS finding its victims all over the world.
World Relief, which calls itself the "biggest evangelical refugee resettlement agency in America" is urging political leaders around the country -- many of whom consistently court evangelical votes -- to support the resettling of Syrian refugees in this country. Politico.com quotes World Relief's vice president Jenny Yang who says that talk of shutting such refugees out "does not reflect what we've been hearing from our constituencies, which are evangelical churches across the country."
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.
As we stand together around the world, shocked and mourning with the thousands who lost their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, relatives, and friends in France, Lebanon, and Iraq, one thing bothers me most about the narrative around the terrorist attacks in Paris.
From the moment first reports started streaming in from France, even when the details surrounding the tragedy were very scarce, mainstream media pundits were far too eager to bring Syrian refugees into the story of the Paris massacre. They planted the seeds of doubt into the minds of millions that somehow Syrian refugees shared responsibility for the massacre.
Two months ago I worked on the last several miles of the refugee trail from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to the Croatian border. I helped drive nearly 100 refugees to the border, and distributed food, water, clothes, and shoes to at least 2,000 more.
I still remember the stories of some who did not hesitate to tell my team why they left Syria or Iraq.
Whether you like it or not, Christians are called to help the world’s most abused, hurt, helpless, exploited, and destitute.
If you’re a follower of Christ passionate about social justice, of if you attend a church that claims to be enthusiastic about global missions, or if you’re part of a Christian organization that facilitates ministry, you’ve been handed a golden opportunity — the ability to minister to millions of people in desperate need.
This is a chance to be radically countercultural — to glorify Christ through selfless sacrifice, hospitality, and love. Being a Christ-follower isn’t easy, and it will require hard work, but it’s worth it.
THE MOST CRITICAL priority for the international community regarding Syria—in addition to addressing the immediate humanitarian needs—is to implement a cease-fire in as much of the country as possible. An arms moratorium on both the regime and rebel groups must be implemented and strictly enforced. And negotiations for a more democratic and representative government should move forward, even if it initially includes important foreign and domestic elements who do not share those values.
Especially in response to Russian military actions in Syria, President Obama is being pressured by both Republicans and Democratic hawks to militarize the situation further by sending more arms to rebel groups and increasing direct U.S. military involvement. As problematic as such military responses may be, the diplomatic alternatives aren’t much better.
Some of the most powerful opposition forces—the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and other hardline Islamists in the al- Nusra Front—appear to have little interest in negotiations. And the prospect of working out an arrangement that would keep in power Assad’s brutal regime, which has been responsible for the vast majority of the more than 100,000 civilian deaths in the nearly five-year conflict, is extremely hard to accept.
Unfortunately, unlike most dictatorships that have been overthrown by armed or unarmed struggle in recent decades, the power in Damascus does not rest in the hands of a single dictator. Assad heads a longstanding ruling apparatus led by the Baath Party and the military that, despite its corruption and brutality, still has a social base. A fairly large minority of Syrians—consisting of Alawites, Christians and other minority communities; Baath Party loyalists and government employees; the professional armed forces and security services; and the largely Sunni crony capitalist class that the regime has nurtured—still cling to Assad’s government.
They constitute a large enough segment of Syrian society so that no anti-regime struggle can win without cascading defections, which is unlikely when the alternative is perceived to be rule by totalitarian Salafists such as ISIS.
During the first six months of the uprising in 2011, when the anti-regime movement was largely nonviolent, pro-democratic, and more diverse in terms of support, it appeared the regime could be eventually toppled. Now, in the context of armed struggle and the rise of Islamist extremists, many who once were working to topple the regime see it as the lesser evil.
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