Though it’s been brewing for a while, the terrorist attacks in Paris have brought the Syrian refugee crisis to a boil in America. Right now, 27 US Governors have said they do not want to take in Syrian refugees. They technically do not have the power to stop the federal government from taking in anyone, but they could refuse to provide resources for anyone brought to those states.
The problem is that news reports from Paris have surfaced that show one of the terrorists was a Syrian refugee. This confirms the worst fears of many on the right side of American politics. It’s obvious to them that ISIS is using the willingness of countries to take in those who are fleeing the Syrian conflict to infiltrate and perform horrible acts of violence against the West, and any who oppose them.
On the left side of things, people are saying we should take more refugees in. They say that the US has never has a refugee commit an act of terror before. And the process is very thorough. Some even suggest that terrorists might be posing as Syrians to scare countries into not taking the refugees. Others say that not taking them in would be un-American.
I would feel better about the whole situation if there were a report saying that X number of refugees have been accepted, but we turned away Y number because of their ties with terrorist groups, etc. Then I would at least know the processes in place are working.
But that’s not what the media is saying. They are engaging in the classic “Either/or” fallacy. Left wing media say either we let everyone in or we are heartless, and right wing says we either keep everyone out, or we are complicit in the inevitable terrorist attack from the ISIS members we know are among the refugees. There is no middle ground for them. Because middle ground doesn’t generate clicks and eyeballs, it doesn’t generate ad revenue.
As with most things in life, a more balanced approach is needed. Christians are commanded to help people, to love them. Showing compassion to those in need is a Christian value. There are lots of verses that instruct us on caring for those in need, lots of reasons to do it.
Let’s use the analogy of your personal home. If 4 starving, freezing kids showed up on your doorstep, you would let them in. If a family of 4 showed up in the same condition, you would let them in. If 4 young men showed up, and you had reason to believe that there were a few young men intent on doing bad things in the area, you would think twice about letting them in.
It is your duty to help those you can. It is not necessarily your duty to place your family, or yourself in danger in order to help others. You can do that, and the Bible says there is no greater way to show your love for others than to lay down your life for them. But you do not have to give your life or the lives of your family in order to show compassion and love for others. You wouldn’t knowingly open the door to a man who says he is going to kill your entire family.
Expand this to the size of community, and the same principles apply. We should give aid where we can to those we know are in need. But we should be vigilant to keep people safe, both the people we are helping and those in the community we are a part of. The same principle applies to countries.
We must render help when and where we can to those who are in genuine need. But we must be vigilant in protecting our own people and those who are fleeing violence, and seeking refuge.
Does that mean we only take families and children, the elderly and the needy, but we turn away single, young men? I don’t know. I’m not familiar with the vetting process for refugees, but I know it’s not done overnight. It takes a long time to make it through the process and into the country.
I do know that this isn’t some cut and dried issue, it’s not an either/or situation. We should do whatever we can to help people, and keep them (and us) safe. We must find a balance.