Public opinion shifts with the wind, and views on Europe’s refugee crisis are no exception.
With last night’s brutal terrorist attacks in Paris, leaving 129 dead and hundreds more injured, perspectives toward Syrian refugees are becoming infused with fear. Calls to close borders to thousands of refugees are being heard around the world.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson have both called for a halt to U.S. plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees.
Poland is already responding to the attacks by rejecting EU migrant quotas, saying they will no longer accept refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.
In the Netherlands, far-right leader Geert Wilders released a statement demanding, “Close the Dutch borders. Now! Protect the Dutch people. Stop turning away and denying.” It’s worth noting that Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands has soared to mass popularity during Europe’s refugee crisis.
But just a few short months ago, on September 2, 2015, the image of little Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on a shore in Turkey captured the attention of the world, sweeping public opinion toward sudden compassion for refugees. Quotas for refugee acceptance within Europe and the US began to rise as the pressure of public opinion inspired a welcome for refugees.
Now, the tide of public opinion is sweeping people in a different direction.
Somehow a situation about which much remains unknown is now being used as a proxy hearing for our ability to empathize and welcome, and for the fate and future of thousands of vulnerable people.
As Christians, how should we respond? In the Bible, we hear God speaking to the children of Israel, calling them to love the immigrants in their midst.
“The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19, CEB)
In Leviticus 19:34 God calls his people to “ love [the stranger] as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Our response as Christians shouldn't shift with the wind. Our love for our neighbors, whether from Syria or from any other country, should remain steadfast.
What a world we live in. I’ve traveled to borders of Syria in Turkey and Lebanon visiting refugee camps and hospitals, witnessing some of the most horrifying sights a person can.
I’ve met women disfigured and de-limbed by barrel bombs in Syria. I’ve talked with children paralyzed by snipers. I’ve met with victims of both ISIS and Assad brutality – women, men, and children whose lives have been destroyed by brutal executions, barrel bombs, sniper attacks.
Here’s a reality check: for the vast number of Syrians arriving in Europe, the attacks that occurred last night in Paris have been a daily occurrence for years. That’s why they fled.
250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in this brutal conflict. 11 million people have been displaced.
But now that we in the west are getting a taste of what Syrians have experienced for four long years, some politicians find it the perfect opportunity to turn on the very people who have been fleeing horror perpetrated by (ironically) the same forces that likely instigated the Paris attacks.
While at least three of the terrorists in the Paris attacks were from Brussels, one apparently had a Syrian passport on his person. We have yet to find out if the attacker was the owner of the passport. If so, it’s possible that this terrorist may have passed through the same door open to refugees fleeing the conflict.
If, within the U.S. and Europe, our collective response is to now close the door to thousands of innocent refugees, we may have a bigger problem on our hands: our own lack of concern for humanity, our stark unwillingness to provide a place of shelter for those fleeing abject horror.
It's important to note that when refugees are resettled in the United States, they are the most scrutinized and vetted people to arrive within our borders, undergoing more than seven layers of security checks, medical screenings, fingerprinting, and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials.
By closing our borders and closing our doors and closing our hearts, we needlessly become a monster in our own right, our inhuman response to deny a chance at life to thousands fleeing the same terror we ourselves fear.
The influx of refugees to Europe is a symptom of a massive, growing problem that needs to be addressed. Instead of turning on victims of terror, let’s turn our attention toward the terrorists themselves. We can welcome refugees while fighting terror. We can aid victims while preventing attacks.
The night of horror in Paris becomes infinitely more tragic than it already is when we turn our backs and close our doors on people fleeing the very same horror that Europe is now experiencing.
As Christians, we should be among the first to lovingly welcome the refugees among us. Let's keep a firm stance of love and compassion for refugees, regardless of the shifting sands of public opinion.