Some of you may know that I work for Episcopal Migration Ministries, the program of the Episcopal Church that resettles refugees to the U.S. EMM, as we call ourselves, works with the U.S. government to resettle individuals who’ve been granted asylum here. We have 30 offices across the country. Unfortunately, we don’t have a partner that resettles in Brooklyn. BUT other do!
Today, I wanted to talk briefly about the Syrian refugee crisis. And to ask us to pause a moment and reflect on the candle of hope and the story of the Good Samaritan.
Right now there are 4.1 million Syrian refugees displaced by the conflict. It’s the largest refugee crisis the world has seen since WWII. Europe continues to receive large numbers of refugees to its shores. France has committed to taking 30,000 Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks. And there is a movement in the U.S. right now to stop our taking just the 10 thousand to which we’d committed. This movement has stated that they just want to ensure proper security measures. The problem, though, is that the U.S. refugee screening process is one of the toughest in the world and is by far more secure than any other way that immigrants or foreign nationals enter the country.
There isn’t a way to make it safer that doesn’t involve essentially shutting down the program, which is what these additional measures would do. Shutting down the U.S. resettlement program means sending 10,000 Syrians, the majority of whom are women and children, into a future where their very lives are at risk.
We Americans can be quick to acknowledge some of the terrible moments in our history, believing that we have more moral clarity now. In 1939, we turned away Jewish refugees for fear that Nazi infiltrators were hiding in their midst. This is historical fact and we ARE repeating it.
In the weeks since the Paris attacks, EMM partner organizations around the country have received offers of support. Unfortunately, they have also received serious threats of physical violence. And the refugees we serve here have received threats against their lives as well. People who have suffered so much trauma already, re-traumatized in the country sheltering them.
Listen: We live in scary times, as did our grandmothers and grandfathers. As did so many before us. But Christ has called us to live beyond our fears. To embrace radical hospitality and love. This is living Gospel / living Faith. We can see this in the parable of the sheep and the goats and in the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus clearly illustrates that our neighbor is anyone in need of help, regardless of race or creed. Jesus did not qualify this with – as long as you are sure you’re safe, or as long as this person is of your particular religion or culture.
Today we light the candle of hope. For us, for the world, and also for the stranger and those in need of shelter. Our new Presiding Bishop called us to live out our faith, when he quoted Christ's admonishment to "Be Not Afraid!” And continued by stating that “Refugees from places like Syria seek to escape the precise same ideological and religious extremism that gave birth to the attacks in Paris. They seek entry into our communities because their lives are imprisoned by daily fear for their existence. Just as Jesus bids us not to be afraid, we must, in turn, pass those words of comfort to those who turn to us for help.”