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Syrian refugees: balancing compassion & security

With at least 31 U.S. governors opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states following terrorist attacks in Paris, Christians have found themselves discussing the appropriate balance between security and compassion in immigration policy.

Various media outlets reported at least one terrorism suspect in Paris entered Europe among a wave of migrants last month by falsely identifying himself as a Syrian refugee. Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the U.S. since 2011, CNN reported, but the Obama administration has agreed to allow 10,000 more in 2016.

Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, tweeted that he “will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.” Deal said in a Nov. 16 letter to President Obama, “While we have empathy for the hardships that innocent Syrian people face, the terrorist attacks in Paris raise a need for additional scrutiny of those claiming refugee status.”

Jarrod Scott, a North Carolina pastor said that America’s response to Syrian refugees should strike a balance between protecting U.S. residents from terrorism and loving the refugees fleeing war and genocide.

“We need more consideration before there is a quick, kneejerk reaction of ceasing the resettlement,” said Scott. He clarified that he was not accusing any specific governor of an inappropriate reaction to the Paris attacks or to Syrian refugees.

Christians must never, Scott said, “operate just out of fear.”

“It’s somewhat inconsistent for us as a church to be sending out missionaries into environments where they are at risk for the sake of love and sharing the Gospel,” Scott said, “and then … not be willing to embrace some degree of risk to reach, in some cases, the very same people” when they seek refugee status.

Scott acknowledged, however, that individuals, churches and governments play different roles in the handling of refugees.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, agreed. He said that “there’s a lot of confusion among Christians on the right response to Syrian refugees because many people do not understand that while we as Christians have one responsibility individually, government has another responsibility.”

Individuals, Jeffress said, must “show compassion for these refugees,” support relief organizations and call on government to combat the terrorist group ISIS. “But government has another responsibility, and that is to secure our borders.”

Citing Acts 17:26, Jeffress said “having a secure border is not an anti-Christian sentiment. And while our government right now says we can trust them to properly vet refugees that come into our country from Syria, many Americans, like myself and these governors, don’t believe that government is capable or willing to do that.”

A Nov. 15 YouTube video of Jeffress responding to the Paris terrorist attacks was viewed more than 78,000 times during its first three days online. In the video, he identified radical Islam as the cause of the attacks and distinguished between the responsibilities of individuals and governments.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called Christians “to remember human dignity” without neglecting appropriate border security.

“The screening of refugees is a crucial aspect of national security, and we should insist on it,” Moore told BP in written comments. “At the same time, evangelicals should be the ones calling the rest of the world to remember human dignity and the image of God, especially for those fleeing murderous Islamic radical jihadis. We should remember the history of the 20th century, of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and refuseniks from the Soviet Union who were largely ignored by the world community.

“We can have prudential discussions and disagreements about how to maintain security,” Moore continued. “What we cannot do is to demagogue the issue, as many politicians are doing right now. An entire generation of those fleeing genocide will be asking if there is an alternative to the toxic religion they’ve seen. Will they hear evangelicals saying ‘Jesus loves you’ or ‘Who then is my neighbor?’ There are massive implications for both answers.”

— by David Roach | BP

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