On Refugees and Justice


Source: The Independent

Source: The Independent

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” – Ezekiel 16:49

How fickle and mutable is the public opinion concerning refugees and those in need. Just a few short months ago, the world stood witness to the body of a little boy, given up by the sea as his family attempted to flee a horrible situation. The sentiment towards helping refugees grew and the Western world seemed willing to spring into action. Faced with one of the greatest crises since WWII and with an enemy just as evil as the Third Reich, the Western world looked ready to unite and help those looking for a life away from constant danger.

And then Paris happened.

Suddenly, nations closed their borders, people abruptly lost their compassion, and the United States – historically a beacon for the sick, the tired, the poor – had 27 governors overstep their authority and say they wouldn’t allow refugees into their states. Never mind that of all the known attackers, every single one (with exception to one) was a French national, not a refugee. Of the one where little is known, he used a fake Syrian passport, meaning we don’t know his status, but most likely wasn’t a refugee.

But fear never lets facts get in the way.

Prudence requires an increase in screenings, in doing all we can to weed out potential terrorists as well as help refugees acclimate to the United States (so as to prevent disruption, resentment, and a reason to join a terrorist group). Justice requires us to seek a way to permanently fix this situation so the refugees can return home without worry of losing their lives. But mercy requires us to bring them away from danger and to a land of relative peace and safety.

Taking in refugees certainly is a complicated matter. After all, the average refugee will undergo some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (especially for those who came from areas of heavy fighting), has lost family members, and is coming to a part of the world with an entirely different culture, climate, language, and majority religion. Such a scenario will naturally breed a tense situation that, if not handled properly, could cause problems. If we add to it that representatives of local governments (such as governors) are openly hostile to refugees, we have a volatile situation.

As with most things in life, love can overcome hate. It’s amazing how far a smile, simple directions, or just learning how to say “hello” in someone’s language will go. It’s the government’s job to vet the refugees and find places for them to live, but it’s up to us to make them feel welcome. People who feel welcome, who feel like guests or, even better, feel like neighbors are less likely to radicalize or listen to fundamentalists. Imagine the refugee who comes to the US or who is even turned away from the US, with the words of ISIS coming to mind; “They will reject you, they will mistreat you, only under an Islamic Caliphate can you find true happiness and freedom.” Such words begin to ring true when we actually do mistreat and reject refugees. If, however, we welcome them, treat them as neighbors, and do what we can to love them, then the words of ISIS ring hollow and false.

The future of these refugees really does fall on how we, as a community, treat them. If we are open and welcoming then chances are we will gain great citizens and neighbors. If we instead make the mistake of so many before us and reject them, then we will have nothing but trouble in our future.

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Light Will Dawn in the Land of Darkness: A Call to Pray for Syria


Violence against Christians has grown increasingly fierce in Syria as reports about priests and pastors being kidnapped or killed by extremists and stories of churches, monasteries, and health clinics being ransacked or bombed abound.  Some instances of considerable note include the kidnap (and presumed murder) of two archbishops, the recent murder of a Franciscan friar, and the detonation of a bomb outside of a Greek Orthodox cathedral.  Reports of violence against Christians continue to pour in on a daily basis.

In view of this, I implore you to join me for the next three days (7/01/13-7/3/13) in a time of prayer and fasting.  We shall be praying for the following things:

  1. For the protection and safety of Christian leaders and their families (who have been especially targeted by the attackers) and lay people who continue to live and work in Syria.
  2. For an end to all violence in the region and for justice and peace to prevail.
  3. For the Lord to turn the hearts of the jihadists away from violence and to have mercy upon them.   

I’d like to draw special attention on the third item of prayer.  Many people will think I’ve lost my mind for adding this.  Why on earth should we pray for the evil men perpetrating these heinous crimes against humanity?  Shouldn’t we hope for their destruction?  Why would we care what happens to them?  . . . Because they are made in the image of God and it is God’s desire for them to repent from their evil deeds and to embrace the Way of peace and love.  Only the power of the gospel – the message of God’s love and sacrifice on behalf of His creation – can conquer the darkness which is sweeping over Syria.  Peace and life will be restored when the jihadists are transformed from messengers of hate and death into emissaries of God’s peace and love.  It’s only through our love as Christians, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that the light of Christ will outshine the blackness of mans hatred.

Our Lord set the perfect example for us – both in His teaching and in one of His last recorded acts on the cross.  In His famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught the unthinkable, He taught us to love even those who hate us:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.‘  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”  (Matt. 5:43-45).  

He exemplified this teaching as he hung, suffering an excruciating death on the cross, praying for the very people who were murdering Him:  “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34).  

May we long for peace and justice but let our hearts not become hardened and filled with the same hate fueling the jihadists.  Let us join hands with the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives out of love and pray for salvation and life to flow into Syria.  Let the prophecy of Isaiah be fulfilled once again, as it was when Jesus first came, through the blood of the martyrs and the prayers of the saints:

“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and the shadow of death light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).