Why I’m Pro-Refugee, Even if it Threatens My Safety

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.

It’s not.

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.

A Letter to the World on Behalf of Syrian Refugees | From a 21 year old American

Dear World,

My name is Kaitlin Ebeling. I am a lover of bread, people, 2am and F#m. I am a frequenter of coffee shops and other countries. I am a follower of Jesus. I am not a genius or a scholar. I am not the governor of a state or the president of a country; come to think about it, I’ve never been elected for anything! I probably don’t know you, and our paths may never cross, but it is with a heavy and burdened heart that I write you this letter.

I write you on behalf of all the Syrian refugees. Granted, I am neither from Syria nor am I refugee. They have not elected me to do so (see previous paragraph!). I am just 21 years old. I do not have a grand plan to end the catastrophe in Syria. My political knowledge is limited, and my political influence even more so. Perhaps there are plenty of reasons why I should not write this. No doubt, I am under qualified. But I write nonetheless because those 4 million Syrian refugees matter. They matter in my eyes, and they matter in the eyes of my God. They are living, breathing, laughing, crying, feeling, existing, human beings and because of that, they matter.

Dear World, I write you this to remind you that the countries we are born in do not dictate the importance of our lives. The colors on our flags and the color of our skin do not decide our value or worth. Their being from Syria should not determine whether they live or whether they die, so long as we can help it. I fear we have forgotten that our safety is no more important than theirs.

They stand at our borders, barred from entry, in the cold, the wet, the empty and the dark. Meanwhile, we remain content to relax in our warm homes, with walls made of fear and roofs constructed from apprehension. In closing our borders until we can absolutely guarantee the safety of all of our citizens, we have decided that the very lives of our neighbors are worth less. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating for a careless open border policy in which we invite anyone and everyone in to our respective countries. Like you, I do not wish to be the subject of the next terrorist attack. However, I believe in the technology and resources we possess. Each year, millions of different people travel through airports all across the world where systems are in place to properly screen people and decrease the likelihood of terrorist attacks. For years we have been content to check our bags, go through security and board our planes never fearing for our safety or our lives. Why, all of a sudden, do we believe we lack the ability to properly screen a couple million refugees? (But even if you feel that we do not have systems in place to guarantee the proper approval of refugees, I believe that together, we have the resources, the knowledge and the man power to quickly develop them.)

It is impossible to absolutely guarantee the complete safety of our selves, our citizens, and our countries. Even if we could prevent all outside threats (which we can’t), we would still be a threat to ourselves. And in the impossible event that that threat were eliminated as well, there would forever remain threats from nature. You and I both know that to shut our borders until “our safety is certain” is nothing more than a political facade constructed to mask our fear, our ignorance and our apathy. We must not be content to hide behind it, with eyes squeezed closed in desperate hope of debating the problem so long that it eventually disappears.

Dear World, I recognize we may be afraid of what could come if bad men take advantage of the refugee crisis to further execute terror. But I am calling on you to look  fear in the eyes and demand that it move aside, declaring that our choices will reflect the reality we long for rather than that which we’re afraid of.

May we wash our hands not only of terrorism and terrorists, but also of terror. Terror caused by what ifs and maybes; terror caused by others; terror we instill in ourselves; and the terror the Syrian refugees currently live in, as they remain trapped in the in-between.

World, I am inviting you to stand up and vow to consider the lives and the safety of the Syrian refugees as important as our own. In doing so, I believe that we will come to see that the Syrian refugees not only depend on our help, but deserve it.

I invite you to stand alongside me and announce that ignorance, prejudice and fear will no longer influence our behavior. While ignorance, prejudice and fear will lead us to spit out hateful remarks that grossly stereotype all Muslims as terrorists seeking to commit atrocities, love, courage and empathy will prompt us to invite innocent refugees into our homes, our countries and our lives until they can safely return home.

Church, I am calling on you to be the Church. Love the foreigner residing among you as yourself (Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19).
Mothers and Fathers, I’m asking you to view the 2+ million Syrian refugees that are children as your own and to react in the same way you would so desperately wish someone else to react in if those were your children.
Presidents, Governors, Kings and Queens, Emperors, Grand Dukes, Councils, and Prime Ministers I am requesting that you rally together under the shared responsibility to assist some of the world’s most vulnerable.

Bygone are the days when Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan do this alone.

When Syrian refugees flee their country, travel under dangerous circumstances and risk their lives to escape, may they no longer be met by unwelcoming peoples. Instead, may they feel welcomed, cared for and cherished by us, people enshrouded in love and magnanimity.

World, I am challenging you to join me, to shout with our actions that we have resolved not to be reduced by fear.

With hope,

Kaitlin