When I first learned about the serious refugee crisis in countries like Syria and Iraq, I immediately made a financial contribution to a non-profit organization working to help those impacted, and looked into adopting an orphan from one of these war torn countries. What I found led to this blog post: Don’t Try To Adopt a Refugee
Since that time, I have kept up with the problems and proposals related to refugees. I have made additional donations, and encouraged others to do the same, due to the increasing needs. I’ve been relieved to see one organization, Samaritan’s Purse, providing an extensive amount of aid to this region, including building a field hospital in Iraq.
Earlier this month, Mr. Trump became President Trump and a temporary ban was implemented, which halts refugees from coming into America for 120 days while the vetting process is reviewed. It also stops those with visas from entering in (or back in) to America for 90 days.
If there wasn’t a firestorm before this executive order, there is now. And that leads me to this meandering blog on the topic.
I have heard and understand both sides of the argument about refugees. My stance has been that America should do more to rid the Middle East of the threats that lead to people fleeing their homelands, help these countries become stable and safe so that displaced people can return home, and, yes, bring refugees to America after vetting them to ensure they are not going to be a threat to America. I’ve also encouraged others to pray and personally donate to organizations working with refugees.
While I understand America’s desire to take a step back and evaluate the vetting process before resuming refugee resettlement, I am also concerned about the temporary halting of this process. I’m concerned that some people do not have this amount of time to wait. These people didn’t. (And I hope we’ve learned a thing or two since then.) I pray those in life and death situations will get to safe zones or other countries that will accept them. I also believe exceptions should be made with regards to letting those with visas back into America (not just those with green cards) . While it’s important not to overgeneralize, there are already examples of people who have lived and worked in America who are not allowed to return to America due to being out of the country when this executive order was signed. It’s also concerning that the ban on refugees from Syria currently has no end date, and that many countries from whom terrorists have come are not on the list. (But note where the list of countries came from.)
Yet, I’m also concerned about our inconsistent advocacy for people around the world in need. Yes, people from the Middle East need refuge, including the Jewish people who, in the midst of the Middle East, are under constant threat. Visitors to Israel don’t even get their passports stamped because a stamp may put you at risk. Looking into Africa, we come to the second most impoverished country in the world: The Democratic Republic of Congo. Where was the outcry during Africa’s first world war which killed 5 million people? What about the Rwandan genocide which led to the death of up to 1 million people? How about Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, where the need to flee to safer lands is paramount? Read THIS article on world hunger, and then tell me where the protests and marches are on behalf of the 800 million people in our world who don’t get enough to eat? (Which actually can be fixed since there is plenty of food in the world to go around). And what about the plight of those in need in our own country – for example, the over half a million Americans that are homeless?
I am left wondering: Why is this particular refugee crisis garnering so much more attention than other crises? Don’t get me wrong: they should all get attention. While good people disagree on how to help others, we don’t disagree that they need help. So, how do we, as a country, decide who to respond to? Whose needs are more important? More pressing? Is it worse to be killed because of hunger? Because of race? Because of religion? Because of war? And how do we decide what to do. America has certainly been generous – In 2014, we gave $35 BILLION dollars to 140 countries. To be clear, that’s over 75% of all countries in the world. While America cannot be the Savior of the world (and it’s certainly unbiblical to pretend we are), it would be difficult to argue that we haven’t done a tremendous amount to help many people around the world. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the countless non-profit organizations that do incredible work in our country and beyond.
It seems to me that some issues become political. Instead of really caring about the people involved, we get caught up in left versus right, liberal versus conservative, democrat versus republican. We ignore the wrong those who hold similar views to ours are doing while (often times literally) making a federal case out of what we perceive the other side is doing wrong. This reminds me of the Bible verse that tells us to pull out the plank of wood in our own eye before we point out the speck in another’s. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that we will see more clearly without the logs interfering with our view.
Isn’t it peculiar that a 2011 six-month ban on refugees coming from Iraq imposed by the Obama administration didn’t get people riled up the way this 2017 four-month ban on refugees imposed by the Trump administration is? And what about Christian refugees from Syria being by and large ignored in 2015? Where was the outcry then? (And, for the record, I understand that the context and details of each administration’s policies are somewhat different, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s really about the human beings involved, at least some of the reaction we are seeing now should have taken place then. By the way, the richest middle eastern countries won’t take Syrian refugees either…despite sharing a region of the world, similar languages, and a predominant religion. Where are these refugees to go?)
Probably what is most ironic to me is that many of the same people who fight oppression in American are opposed to an executive order that includes the following language:
The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.
I don’t see the problem with this, and I can’t help but wonder if this issue has become a political football with both sides scrambling to win the game, even when most people don’t understand the rules (or, in this case, the history or context of the game). And, no, I am not saying that people don’t really care about the plight of refugees because clearly many people do. Rather, I ‘m talking about the rhetoric espoused by leaders of the opposing party and the mainstream that is intended to get people fired up, instilling fears that America is becoming fascist (which is undoubtedly false). And, yes, there is rhetoric on the other side too, driving some to promote and support unnecessary restrictions, and people who have hate in their hearts using this as fuel. On both sides, the truth – the facts – must prevail in order for us to become more unified on this (and other) issues.
So, while I do have concerns about a temporary ban to refugees, while I do believe there should be exceptions to people with visas from the 7 concerning countries being allowed to enter America, while I do think we should do more to help with the plight of refugees (and, make no mistake, there are many different ways to help), many people have an unrealistic expectation about what we can or should do…as if we could or should completely resolve the problem, or all the problems, when that will never be possible. It doesn’t mean we stop being the most generous country in the world. It doesn’t mean we stop trying to help those in need. It doesn’t mean we stop fighting for refugees, including those from the middle east – whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, any other religion or no religion at all. But, perhaps, in the midst of our efforts, we should stop trying to make people whose passions lie in other, and equally as important, causes feel guilty if they disagree or are not as invested in this particular issue.
I know this post is mostly wandering and wondering…likely leading to more questions than answers. Conservatives may say I’m not concerned enough about America’s safety while liberals may say I’m not being compassionate enough or, worse, endorsing discrimination, but neither are true. I’m not accusing one side or the other of being completely right or completely wrong (as you’ve read, my position lies somewhere in the middle on this issue). Rather, I’m simply attempting to briefly note the plight of those in need, our inconsistent policies, and our need to move forward – together.
I want to see America help as many people as possible, those in our country and those outside our country (and, yes, the federal government should put American citizens first – we cannot confuse the role of government with the call of Christians), while letting go of the expectation that our government or our citizens can do everything to help everyone. While we certainly should, as individuals and as a country, be compassionate and do whatever we can to help, we can’t forget that our debt is in the trillions and we will never have enough resources to solve the problems of everyone in the world. In fact, I would love to see us help more countries become democracies or democratic republics in their own right (a la Ronald Reagan) so that there is more freedom around the world and less dependence on America. (Similar to the old adage – giving a man a fish to feed him for a day versus teaching a man to fish so he’ll eat for a lifetime.) Until then, we have to keep doing what we can, recognizing our limitations, and trusting God.
As I wrap up this blog, I want to relay the recently shared words of our fairly elected and newly installed President, Donald J. Trump:
“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave.
We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting.
This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.
I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”
And may we always be that shining city on a hill, abiding by the words engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty as written by a Jewish woman named Emma Lazarus (think about that symbolism for a moment):
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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Author’s Note: I reserve the right to amend or addend this blog post and my own opinion based on enhanced understanding of the subject matter, updates to federal policies, and/or the prompting of the Holy Spirit.