Friends, acquaintances, strangers, politicians, religious leaders and celebrities who are all against accepting refugees constantly claim that accepting refugees means accepting terrorists, which means putting the lives of American citizens at risk. I’ve often heard it said that the best way to optimize the safety of U.S. citizens is to prevent refugees from coming over until the government has a fool-proof system to screen potential refugees in order to ensure that no one seeking to do harm might take up residency in our country.
I can see where they are coming from; we are born with an innate desire for survival. However, I do not agree with them. I disagree for many reasons, on the grounds that if terrorists wanted to get into our country, they will do so another way (and have). But perhaps most fundamentally, I disagree with what the above argument implies: that our safety, the safety of American citizens, is more important and more valuable than the safety of the Syrian refugees. I disagree that it’s an “us” (American citizens) versus “them” (Syrian refugees) thing.
In my mind, it always has and always will be a “we” thing. When I look at them I don’t see them as being “Syrians” or “refugees.” I don’t see them as “Muslims” or “Christians” (as those who do who argue for the acceptance of only Christian refugees).
While these characteristics are undoubtedly a part of who they are, they are first and foremost people: living, breathing, hurting human beings whose lives and safety are in grave danger. It is our mutual humanity that creates an outpouring of love in me. It’s our shared personhood that stirs my heart to compassionate, eager acceptance and my feet to intentional action.
My being an American citizen and their being a Syrian refugee does, by no means, dictate our worth. The countries we are born in do not determine the importance of our lives. The colors on our flags and the color of our skin do not decide our value.
How dare we shut ourselves, our country, our refuge off to them out of fear for our lives in some distant future when they fear for their lives today.
I would much rather die at the hands of terrorist who took advantage of our acceptance of refugees than live in an isolated bubble from the rest of humanity, turning our backs and shutting our ears to their desperate pleas for help.
I am pro-refugee for one simple reason: they are people, beloved by God, who matter.
Call me naive, idealistic or even ridiculous, but I hope to spend the rest of my life loving people for who they are: people…Apart from nationalities or races, religions or socio-economic status, languages spoken or eduction received.
If for no other reason, may our shared humanity, our shared personhood be what compassionately and intentionally stirs us to pour out mercy, lavish others with kindness, act in love and invite those in danger into our countries, our churches, our schools, our workplaces and our homes.