This is not okay.

© UNHCR/A.McConnell

Syria has been at war with itself for years. Countless lives have been lost. Most of the country has been displaced. Many fleeing with only the clothes on their back. And our response to this disaster has largely been a shrug. This is not okay.

Those aware of the situation have turned it, like most things, into a political issue. We’ve reduced a humanitarian crisis to a partisan talking point. This is not okay.

Meanwhile, today in Syria citizens were killed through the use of chemical weapons. Weapons unleashed by their own government. Men. Women. Children. Today. Burned. Poisoned. Suffocated. Dead. The pictures on Twitter are unfiltered and haunting. If that isn’t bad enough, planes then launched rockets at the clinics where the wounded were being treated. This is not okay.

These are people that we are reluctant to welcome when they beg to come. These are people that we have wanted to shut the door on. These are people we’ve largely turned our back on. Men. Women. Children. This is not okay.

The government needs to figure out what they will do for the those remaining in the country, the refugees who’ve fled, and the evil Assad regime. Hopefully this administration will take the issue more seriously than the previous one. It is complex and I don’t have all the answers. 

But you and I need to have our hearts broken by the evil in this world and let it change our attitudes, opinions, and behaviors.

You and I need to consider our response to atrocities like this. It should shake us.

You and I need to decide that this is not okay.

Don’t tell me things like, “America first.” That just does not fly for me as a Jesus follower.

Don’t tell me that Saudi Arabia and whoever should be doing more. Aren’t we supposed to be a “shining city on a hill?”

Don’t tell me “Veterans before refugees.” Certainly our vets need help and resources but the people being choked to death by Sarin gas from their government should be moved to the front of the line. (And you will see shortly we have more than enough cash to go around for refugees and veterans.)

Don’t tell me they can’t be trusted. Don’t tell me we have to do more “extreme vetting.” Don’t tell me one Skittle might be poisoned. 

None of that. Look at the pictures of boys and girls who lost their life today gasping for air that wouldn’t come. Read the stories of the conditions of refugee camps. Listen to the people.

Enough is enough. This is not okay. 

Don’t want to bring them here? Ok, what can you do feed, clothe, and medicate them where they are at? Can you love them as people and be moved by their desperation?

This is a heart issue, not a resource issue.

The US spends around $2.5 billion on Halloween costumes every year. For one night of trick or treating and a party or two. In 2012 we spent $370 million on dressing up our pets on October 31st. None of this includes decorations or candy.

We spend nearly $14 billion on ice cream annually, and that doesn’t include restaurant sales.

The amount of federal dollars that goes to resettling refugees in the USA each year is approximately $585 million. Peanuts compared to the way we spend elsewhere.

Look, I love Halloween and I love ice cream, but I love people more. Maybe I could do without.

Without ice cream or fancy costumes or even safety.

This may sound crazy, but I’m willing to risk safety for the sake of these people. I’m willing to risk it in the name of love. That’s what a Jesus follower does. 

Despite statistics showing that refugees have not been terrorists 99.99938% of the time, some will say this makes me foolish or naïve or something else, but that’s the part I am okay with. I’m not okay with people suffering like this. I’m not okay with saying no to people who are being killed just because of where they live.

Who are we as a nation if we don’t help these people?

Who are we as a Church if we don’t use our voice to bring attention to this?

Who are we as people if we can’t set aside some things in order to save the lives of people?

This is not okay.

God have mercy on them. God have mercy on us.


Give/Learn/Get Involved:

Charity Navigator lists some reputable organizations assisting in this crisis:
https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1523#

Preemptive Love Coalition is on the ground feeding and treating people. http://www.preemptivelove.org/

Catholic Relief Services: Get to Know Refugees
http://www.crs.org/media-center/syrian-refugees-meet-the-people-everyones-talking-about

Catholic Relief Services: Ways to Help
http://www.crs.org/stories/helping-syrian-refugees-numbers

My own tribe, the Church of the Nazarene, has good folks on the ground caring for refugees where they are at, donate here: https://give.nazarene.org/donate/f/125347

 

 

On Terrorism & Refugees

In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris many are calling for the United States to halt its plan to accept Syrian refugees within our borders. The concern is that scattered among the refugees will be radicalized terrorists who will carry out similar style attacks here on our soil. They will come under the guise of needing a safe place and will instead rob us of any sense of peace we may have.

This is a legitimate concern. I get that. I wrestle with it.

I don’t want to have to fear for my children’s lives anytime we go out in public. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder anytime there is a loud noise. I don’t want my kids to live in a world that robs them of their blissful innocence.

And yet, I am opposed to any rejection of Syrian refugees. “Bring them in,” I say.

The things I want for my children are the very same things the Syrian people want for theirs. And the things I don’t want for my children are the very things that they have been living with for far too long. Their fears and worries are much more tangible than mine. They lack food and water, healthcare, education, shelter, and any semblance of stability in their life. They are more likely to be enslaved, abused, and suffer violence in the midst of their displacement. Did I mention that they are on the run from the very people we condemn in these brutal attacks?

In the past days many have been calling for the U.S. to turn them away. In doing so we are leaving them without homes, without opportunity, and without much hope. All because we are afraid.

This is a problem for me. My need to feel secure is not more important than their needs of dignity and basic care and welfare. My desire to enjoy a movie without threat of violence is not more important that a person’s need to be educated and warm and well fed.

But what about our safety? What about us; our people?

We are all too aware of the fact that movie theaters and schools and shopping malls are not bastions of safety any longer. We have seen people from all different belief systems and all shades of color use violence to terrorize innocent people. Terrorism is not something only “they” are capable of.

As a Christian I no longer believe in the categories “us and them.” I believe Jesus came, in part, to erase the barriers we have established between people. Jesus came for all of us.

Some of our presidential candidates have suggested we accept only Christian refugees. I am not sure how one proves their faith to a government official, but I am sure that there is nothing Christian about closing a door on people in need simply because they believe differently than us. It may be the smart thing to do. It may be the safe thing to do. But it is certainly not the Christlike thing to do.

This is where my struggle lies. I want security and prosperity. I want to pursue life, liberty, and happiness without all this extra stuff to worry about. But I am a Christian before I am a citizen. My calling as a Christian is to pursue Jesus, not the American Dream.

When these things are opposed it is too easy for me to want to grab for my flag rather than my cross.

Are there evil people out there who want to bring harm to us? Yes, absolutely. Are we willing to let that stop us from reaching out to our global neighbors to help them in a time of crisis? I hope not.

That’s not who we are as a country. And it is certainly not who we are if we follow Jesus Christ.

I believe the best way to defeat bad guys is to be good guys. The best way to destroy radicalism is to show love. The best way to conquer fear is to be courageous.

Let’s declare war on the ideology that anyone who doesn’t think like us is the enemy. Let’s be a people who have open arms of hospitality. Even when it is easier, even when it is safer to hide behind our locked doors.

Let’s not bow to terror but defy it.

We will not be shaken and we will not cower in fear. We are stronger than those who would victimize others for their gain. We will stand together, as we always have, to receive people who need a place to rest, a place to call home. It is who we are at our core.

“Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./ Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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