The aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks has definitely left the world in a state of disarray.
International leaders are in the midst of trying to come up with a combative strategy in confronting ISIS, while Americans here at home are weighing their thoughts on Syrian refugees seeking safe haven in the United States.
While over half of the nation’s governor’s are reluctant to bring Syrian refugees to their respective states, there’s a more pressing question that seems to loom over the head of many citizens: What should Christians do?
In an attempt to transcend the tense geopolitical climate that exists, some evangelical Christians are distancing themselves from the GOP, which is usually home turf for Christians, to provide a more welcoming tone in regards to welcoming refugees.
Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy at World Relief, told POLITICO about how Christians are seeking to change the narrative in the refugee debate:
“A push by Republican presidential candidates to ban Syrian refugees “does not reflect what we’ve been hearing from our constituencies, which are evangelical churches across the country. Most of the people have been saying we want to continue to work with refugees, that what happened in Paris … doesn’t reflect who refugees are.”
The challenge for many Christians may be separating their conscience from what conventional wisdom may appear to be. But it is also this challenge that could also present itself as a means of liberty.
Steve Van Valkenburg, the Middle East area director for the non-profit organization Christian Aid Mission, attests to the fact that Christianity, even in the midst of the evils of terrorism, will win over the hearts of Muslim refugees:
“I think that a lot of refugees see that there is something different there, they see the Muslim on Muslim fighting, and then they see how the Christians are reaching out with love and caring — that has to do something with their hearts,”
A valid counter argument could easily be that many Christians are not filled with malice and hate towards refugees, but are merely worried about the daunting issues they face in the backyards of America, including homelessness among veterans, those without jobs, and the poor who lack a quality education, just to name a few.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley referenced the Status of Liberty as means of compassion towards refugees:
“What to do about the root cause of this humanitarian crisis may be complex, but helping refugees is not: Americans have a long, proud tradition of providing comfort to the weak and weary. It is in our national DNA, inscribed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a nation of immigrants and refugees, and we cannot forget what it means to struggle and toil and yearn for a better life beyond the next horizon.”
But GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist preacher, makes national security a priority, despite Christian allegiances:
“Well, that’s wonderful rhetoric, but the Statue of Liberty says, bring us your tired and your weary. It didn’t say, bring us your terrorists and let them come in here and bomb neighborhoods, cafes and concert halls.”
Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, is also making distance from the political theater surrounding the debate with this written statement:
“Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes. Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive.”
While the debate will continue for some time over what’s right, wrong or temporarily convenient, Christians can feel safe in their stance because, for the most part, they’re fearless of political repercussions.