syria

In the Wake of ISIS Terror: Mourning, Lament, Discernment

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.

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!”

Evangelicals say yes to Syrian refugees: Jarvis DeBerry

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 Censure GOP Over Syrian Refugee Crisis

Image via ekvidi/Shutterstock.com

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. 

I’ve Worked On The Syrian Refugee Trail in Europe. Here’s What We’re Getting Wrong.

Image via /Shutterstock.com

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. 

Rejecting Refugees, Rejecting Christ

Syrian refugees arrive in Lesvos, Greece in October.

Syrian refugees arrive in Lesvos, Greece in October. Anjo Kan / Shutterstock.com

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.

What Will Peace Require?

olivier borgognon / Shutterstock

olivier borgognon / Shutterstock

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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U.S. Military Action Has Never Brought Peace to the Middle East and It Won't Now

Image via  / Shutterstock

“U.S. military intervention is the problem, not the solution. Since the U.S. started bombing Iraq and Syria last year, ISIS has grown stronger.”

In the months since Cortright’s charge the world has witnessed millions of Syrian citizens fleeing the conflict. Having saturated the capacity of neighboring nations to accept refugees, displaced Syrians have continued north through Turkey and Eastern Europe, en route to Germany and neighboring countries. In September, Russia inserted itself into the Syrian military calculus, offering military support for, it claimed, the Assad regime’s fight against ISIS. Instead Russian bombs showered insurgent Syrian rebel forces. Recent reports confirm that Russia is actually helping Assad retake Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, from insurgent forces, with an Iranian assist.

In moments like these it is tempting to stand in solidarity with the disciple Peter, who tried to defend the helpless with military might. When Jesus was seized by temple police, Peter took out his blade and sliced off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus. (Matt. 26:51-56, Luke 22:50, John 18:10-11). Jesus stopped him.

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