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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Welcoming ALL Sojourners Means Syrian Refugees Too

The following is a statement submitted to the Senate and House hearings on allowing in Syrian refugees. Sadly, too many of our political leaders are playing political football with refugee lives and responding in fear rather than in morality. Call your Senators and Representative (202-224-3121) and urge them to support Syrian refugees. 

The General Board of Church and Society grieves for the victims of violence in Paris, Beirut, and other places around the world recently. We continue to pray for the day when no more tears will be shed as war will give way to peace. Christians are reminded of the coming season of Advent and anticipate the coming of our Lord. We recall the Savior of the world began his life as a refugee.

Vulnerable people are increasingly facing crises in our world today. Perhaps the most vulnerable people are refugees. This is evident today as we see approximately four million refugees from Syria, with three quarters of them being women and children. The solutions to this crisis are complex, but one solution is the safe resettlement of refugees. Currently, more than three million Syrian refugees have resettled in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. U.S. participation in the resettlement of refugees is vital and demonstrates global leadership while providing relief for the countries in the region to which refugees immediately flee.

The United States presently has resettled only 2,000 Syrian refugees. We feel strongly the United States should significantly increase this number and show authentic global leadership. Refugees are the single most scrutinized and vetted individuals to travel to the United States: undergoing more than seven security checks by intelligence agencies including biometric tests, medical screenings, forensic testing of documents, iris scans to confirm the identity of Syrian refugees throughout the process, investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center, and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials. It takes individuals longer than 1,000 days to be processed before entering.

States and governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens, including protecting the human rights of all people in their boundaries. However, the calls for stopping Syrians from entering the country are reminiscent of shameful times in this country’s history when we surrendered to our fears and refused to serve people who truly were experiencing violence and persecution. Protecting and upholding human dignity and freedom for those fleeing terror, persecution, and economic deprivation, is not only the common responsibility of everyone including state and religious bodies, it is our highest calling.  

The United Methodist Church has consistently supported humanitarian responses to crises. Christian witness should reflect the special care that Christ offers migrants, refugees and the vulnerable.  As United Methodists, we know that fearful responses are not reflective of Christian life and witness.  Instead, Christ calls us to a love for humankind and compassion for all of people regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. Therefore, we oppose all efforts to curtail the acceptance of Syrian refugees into the United States as well as the efforts of some to impose a religious litmus test that will discriminate against Muslim refugees. To conflate refugees with terrorists is inexcusable when the millions of people leaving Syria are fleeing that same violence and terror.

Rather than submit to fear, we pray that public officials will give pause to thoughtful deliberation and choose wisdom over political rhetoric. Our hope is that Congress shows true leadership in this time of great tragedy. United Methodists serve refugees across the world and will continue to welcome refugees to our communities. Our prayer is that this will include refugees from Syria.