The Gospel answer to this question is clear. We absolutely should host Syrian Refugee families as well as refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq who befriended our soldiers there. You have to go no further than Matthew 25 to find this answer: “When you did it or failed to do it to the least of my brethren, you did it or failed to do it to me.” Jesus, the Son of God, identified with the lost, the last, and the least and so our mandate is clear. I believe that every Church and parish community should consider hosting a refugee family. We should not allow fear to keep us from living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather each of our parishes and communities should be an oasis of mercy: “Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (Pope Francis).
Having said this, I know there is much fear and I recognize that it is real. Unfortunately the cable networks are obsessing about the tragic events in Paris. In my opinion they are giving far too much play to the terrorists and they are engendering more fear among people. They talk on and on about what they do not know. This is not helpful. It engenders even more fear. Wouldn’t it be more responsible and intelligent to wait until the facts emerge? Furthermore some 32 governors have declared that their states will not accept refugees. Why the rush to the media? Yes, we need to be cautious and some pause is warranted but let us not overreact.
Bishop Eusibio Elizondo, the chair of the UBCCS Committee on Migration, said on November 17, 2015 “I am disturbed, however, by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”
Do we have reason to fear? Yes, clearly we do. Should we be careful and responsible about vetting refugees before they enter the United States? Of course we should. But let’s look at the facts not the rhetoric. Let us listen to Bishop Eusibio once again: “Moreover, refugees to this country must pass security checks and multiple interviews before entering the United States—more than any arrival to the United States. It can take up to two years for a refugee to pass through the whole vetting process. We can look at strengthening the already stringent screening program, but we should continue to welcome those in desperate need.”
We need to be who we are. We are the disciples of Jesus Christ. We follow His way of love and inclusion for the lost, the last, and the least. We, as St. Paul says, are the holy people of God. So we need to be who we are. We cannot deny ourselves or we will deny Jesus Christ. Therefore, the challenge before us cuts to the very core of being a Christian community. Christians are being persecuted, tortured, and murdered simply because they profess the name of Jesus Christ. They are being told to convert or die. Are we to stand by and do nothing? I think not.
Let us be who we are: the holy people of God, the people who follow the Prince of Peace, the Savior of the world. What a great calling we have; what a tremendous challenge we face. Let us be an oasis of mercy.
Rev. James M. McNamara